Exodus 33:12-23 (My Presence Will Go With You, And I Will Give You Rest)

Exodus 33:12-23
My Presence Will Go With You, And I Will Give You Rest

Today we will come to the center verses of the lengthy chiasm which comprises this and the surrounding chapters. We’ll also start heading back down the other side of it towards its completion. The verses which surround the center verse speak of God’s grace.

Moses has been told that he has found grace in the eyes of the Lord, but he is unsure as to how far that actually extends. Does it include his beloved people Israel? He asks that it would, and he goes into great length to ensure that the message he is given is perfectly understood and without any ambiguity.

It is not that he doesn’t trust the Lord, it is that he doesn’t trust the people. They are prone to error and they are stiff-necked towards the Lord. And so he will methodically work to make sure that the grace he has been given will also be grace for them.

Text Verse:  Thus says the Lord:
“The people who survived the sword
Found grace in the wilderness—
Israel, when I went to give him rest.” Jeremiah 31:2

Israel has a long history of disobedience and falling away from the Lord, and yet if you talk to many Jews today, they are under the assumption that they are somehow deserving of God’s favor. They have an attitude that because of who they are as a people, they are exempt from the very laws that established them as a people.

It’s often hard to have a dialogue with a Jew about righteousness, because they feel they already inherently possess it. It is as if the grace that was bestowed on them was a once-for-all-time thing. It is as if to them God stamped them with a seal of approval, declared them righteous, and that is that.

As long as they have this impression, they have no need of Jesus. What good is imputed righteousness when you already have your own inherent righteousness? But one of the verses today is used by Paul to show us the folly of this type of thinking on their part.

And not to get too down on the Jews, there are oodles and buckets full of people who think they are inherently righteous before God on their own merits. There are others who think they are righteous because of what they have done for their church, or even more – simply because of the church they attend.

But the lesson of the Bible is that all need grace. If one needs grace, it means that they have a lack which needs to be filled. One cannot merit grace. And so if that grace is lacking, then there is no other way to replace it.

On the other hand, there are those who know they have a problem and what they seek is mercy. However, one must know where God’s mercy is derived from. How do you not get what you do deserve? That is the question and it leads right back to the grace. If the grace is lacking, the mercy cannot be provided because the mercy is the result of grace.

It’s a horrible cycle for much of the world and it is something that all people need to ponder and to rectify. For corporate Israel, Moses secured the grace, but for individual Israelites, there is still a need for what God offers. Moses did His part, each Jew must do his part, and every one of us needs to do our part as well. Let us seek the Lord while He may be found.

He has offered us a Rock of refuge and a place of safety. The Bible tells us all the details if we will simply search them out. Yes, it’s all to be found in His superior word. And so let’s turn to that precious word once again and… May God speak to us through His word today and may His glorious name ever be praised.

I. Show Me Your Way (verses 12-14)

12 Then Moses said to the Lord, “See, You say to me, ‘Bring up this people.’ But You have not let me know whom You will send with me.

In the last passage, the people had stripped off their ornamentation in a sign of remorse. They further had been shown that the Lord was no longer to dwell in their midst, but a far distance off from them. They had to go outside the camp to seek Him. Those in the camp simply worshiped from afar.

Their acts of self-humiliation now lead to Moses beginning a discourse, petitioning the Lord for His favor and to once again allow the honor of having His glory dwell in their midst. Without His divine Presence, there would be a notable fracture between Him and the people of Israel.

In verse 11 it said, “So the Lord spoke to Moses face to face, as a man speaks to his friend.” He is using this familiarity to draw out from the Lord His divine favor. He is looking for clarification of what it means when He said that He would send “an angel” before them. What angel? He wants the same assurance which came back in Exodus 23 with the words “My Angel.”

In the previous passage, I noted the extremely complicated nature of the chronology of theses verses. Scholars have struggled to determine when things were said and how they fit together. But we learned that the details which we are looking at in Chapter 33 and through until verse 9 of chapter 34, chronologically belong between verses 33 and 34 of Chapter 32.

In Exodus 23:30, the Angel of the Lord was promised to go up with them. In Exodus 33:7, which chronologically belongs between Exodus 32:33 and 32:34, “an angel” has been determined to go before them, but who it is isn’t known. Now Moses is questioning that. “Just who is it that will go before us?”

This is a clue that we are still in the middle of those verses now. Only when we come to verse 34:10 will we once again be moving forward from that point. I believe the reason for this is to show us the chiasm which spans these chapters. It is showing the logical nature of what is spoken for us to understand what is going on.

I know it is complicated, and it may seem to make little difference in the overall scheme of things, but this is a detailed and important part of the redemptive narrative. Will the Lord remain among His people or not? Moses is working to determine He that will be.

He has been told to bring the people up to Canaan, but unless it is the Lord who leads them, he thinks it is unwise to move an inch. What he is doing now is establishing to Israel that without the Lord in their midst, they have no security, no surety, and are just like all the other people of the earth.

12 (con’t) Yet You have said, ‘I know you by name,

This has not been specifically recorded in the past. However, the Lord called to Moses by name from the burning bush. He has been called by name from the midst of the cloud as well. Such an act implies the greatest sense of divine favor.

Those whom He favors in an intimate way are said to be known by name. It is the same as a king in a kingdom. All are subjects, but those who are known by name are those who have special access to the king. To the Lord, the name signifies the being and thus the special election to which one is called. This is seen elsewhere in Scripture, such as at the calling of Cyrus, the king of Persia –

“For Jacob My servant’s sake,
And Israel My elect,
I have even called you by your name;
I have named you, though you have not known Me.” Isaiah 45:4

It is also what Jesus did when Peter first encountered Him –

One of the two who heard John speak, and followed Him, was Andrew, Simon Peter’s brother. 41 He first found his own brother Simon, and said to him, “We have found the Messiah” (which is translated, the Christ). 42 And he brought him to Jesus.
Now when Jesus looked at him, He said, “You are Simon the son of Jonah. You shall be called Cephas” (which is translated, A Stone). John 1:40-42

12 (con’t) and you have also found grace in My sight.’

Again, this hasn’t been recorded in Scripture. However, it has been implied in several ways. In the last chapter, the Lord’s anger was evident when He said He would destroy Israel and make Moses’ name great instead. After Moses petitioned Him on Israel’s behalf, the Lord relented for his sake. In both instances, he found grace in the Lord’s sight. At the same time, Israel was granted mercy.

13 Now therefore, I pray, if I have found grace in Your sight, show me now Your way,

This verse brings in the full picture of Moses acting as a mediator on behalf of Israel. He is thus a picture of Christ who ever lives to intercede for His people before the Father. Because of the grace which he has been given, he submits his request, but first by restating the fact that he has already been given grace – “…if I have found grace in Your sight, show me now Your way.”

If, in fact, he has found grace in the sight of the Lord, then he would like to know what the plans of the Lord are for the conduct of the people. How will they be led? By whom will they be led? To Moses, proof of his having found grace is tied up in whether the Lord will be with His people or not.

13 (con’t) that I may know You and that I may find grace in Your sight.

This is similar to Jacob’s wrestling with the Lord by the Jabbok River. He is struggling with the Lord and will not let Him go without first receiving a blessing. However, this blessing is not for himself, but for Israel. Just as the Lord blessed Israel by the River, Moses seeks a blessing for Israel while in the wilderness. To Moses, grace to him implies also grace towards the people. If they are given good and sure promises, then Moses will feel satisfied that he has, in fact, found grace in the eyes of the Lord.

13 (con’t) And consider that this nation is Your people.”

Moses here looks back to Exodus 32:7 where the Lord said, “Go, get down! For your people whom you brought out of the land of Egypt have corrupted themselves.” As he did then, he again reminds Himthat they are His people and they bear His name. He had acknowledged this time and again before Pharaoh and the people of Egypt. “I have seen the affliction of My people.” “Let My people go.” And on and on, He had claimed them as His people. Moses asks Him to consider this yet again.

14 And He said, “My Presence will go with you, and I will give you rest.”

panai yeleku va’hanikhoti lakh – “My face shall go, and I will give rest to you.” The face of the Lord is the Lord. His face indicates His Presence. This is reflected in the words of Isaiah 63 –

“In all their affliction He was afflicted,
And the Angel of His Presence saved them;
In His love and in His pity He redeemed them;
And He bore them and carried them
All the days of old.” Isaiah 63:9

This verse ends the upward climb of the chiasm which spans these many verses. The Lord has spoken; the wrestling match seems to have ended; Moses appears to have received his blessing. The Lord Himself will be present and it will be He who assures that rest is given, meaning the Land of Promise. However, Moses still senses a note of ambiguity.

The words, “with you” are inserted into this verse. The coming verses will show us that he is still concerned that this may only be a personal promise from the Lord to him. What he desires is that it will be a renewal of what was previously promised to the congregation as a whole.

Show me Your way, O Lord, this I pray
Reveal to me that which I need to know
Show me what You have in store for me this day
And reveal to me the path on which I should go

Here in Your word I come to seek Your face
And here in Your word do I come each day
It guides me in life from place to place
Show me Your way, O Lord, this I pray

Open my eyes to the glory set before me
Show me Your way, O Lord, this I pray
Lead me to the still waters and to the glassy sea
Be with me as I open this word to read, each and every day

II. Show Me Your Glory (verses 15-18)

15 Then he said to Him, “If Your Presence does not go with us, do not bring us up from here.

This verse here forms the center of the long and detailed chiasm. It is a verse which reflects Moses’ adamant desire that Israel as a people be considered sacred to the Lord. Moses again ties the people in with himself. The previous verse said that Moses would be given rest, but it doesn’t necessarily mean that the congregation would receive it with him. For this reason, he reiterates the request.

What would happen if the people rebelled again. What would the Lord do if they fell into national sin? Would the Lord again reject them? Moses is looking for the highest assurance that Israel will be led to its place of rest. No matter what they do, he is asking for the guarantee that as a people, they will continue to receive the grace of His presence. As John Lange comments concerning this verse –

“Better to die in the wilderness than to reach his goal without that guidance.”

16 For how then will it be known that Your people and I have found grace in Your sight, except You go with us?

This is an obvious question. Grace is unmerited favor. How can one know that they have received unmerited favor unless they have a knowledge of that favor? If they made it to Canaan and completely subdued the land, would it have been the favor of the Lord, or would it maybe have been the lesser gods of time and chance? Isaiah later speaks of such things –

“But you are those who forsake the Lord,
Who forget My holy mountain,
Who prepare a table for Gad [fortune],
And who furnish a drink offering for Meni [destiny].” Isaiah 65:11

Or could it be the greatness of Israel as a people apart from the Lord? History has spoken of this belief time and again, as recorded in the Bible and in the history of the people throughout the ages –

And the Lord said to Gideon, “The people who are with you are too many for Me to give the Midianites into their hands, lest Israel claim glory for itself against Me, saying, ‘My own hand has saved me.’” Judges 7:2

Just as the Lord cherished His honor in both of those instances, Moses desires that the people receive the Lord’s grace now. His divine Presence among them is the guarantee of this grace that he seeks. Without it, there would be no indication that they were different from any of the other nations of the earth. In short, being the Lord’s people would mean nothing more than being the people of any pagan god.

16 (con’t) So we shall be separate, Your people and I, from all the people who are upon the face of the earth.”

By the guarantee of the divine Presence among them, a distinction will be evident. The word translated here as “so we shall be separated” is palah. This is fourth of only seven times it will be seen in the Bible. It is found only in Exodus and the psalms. It comes from a primitive root meaning, “to distinguish.” In Psalm 139, it is used in its more precise sense –

I will praise You, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made;
Marvelous are Your works,
And that my soul knows very well. Psalm 139:14

The intent of Moses’ words are that the presence of the Lord will indicate that they are “marvelously separated” from all of the people on the face of the earth. For the Christian, it would be the sealing of the Holy Spirit who “marvelously separates” us unto God from all other people.

17 So the Lord said to Moses, “I will also do this thing that you have spoken;

ha’davar hazzeh asher dibarta e-e-seh – “The word this that you have spoken, I will do.” At last, the full and complete response which Moses sought has been realized. He has displayed amazing persistence towards the Lord, having taken full advantage of the face to face friendship previously mentioned.

In his diligence, he has now been rewarded. The words are in response to the petition of the previous verse, but they are also inclusive of the entire request presented by Moses, as is evidenced in the substance of the corresponding branches of the chiasm. Those words comprise verse 13 which said –

“Now therefore, I pray, if I have found grace in Your sight, show me now Your way, that I may know You and that I may find grace in Your sight. And consider that this nation is Your people.”

The Lord promised to not only make them His people, but that they would remain His people. They would not be cut off from this state even if they were to erringly fall away individually or nationally. Punishment would come, but He would – for once and forever – consider this nation His people.

In an astonishing understanding of this precept, Adam Clarke wrote the following concerning the promise of this verse. As I read what he says, remember that he lived from 1762 until 1832. Even at that point in time, he realized that God was still, even then, saving Israel for something marvelous in his future –

“…from the day in which he brought them out of Egypt to the present day, he has kept them a distinct, unmixed people! Who can account for this on any principle but that of a continual especial providence, and a constant Divine interference? The Jews have ever been a people fond of money; had they been mingled with the people of the earth among whom they have been scattered, their secular interests would have been greatly promoted by it; and they who have sacrificed every thing besides to their love of money, on this point have been incorruptible! They chose in every part of their dispersions rather to be a poor, despised, persecuted people, and continue separate from all the people of the earth, than to enjoy ease and affluence by becoming mixed with the nations. For what great purposes must God be preserving this people! for it does not appear that any moral principle binds them together – they seem lost to this; and yet in opposition to their interests, for which in other respects they would sacrifice every thing, they are still kept distinct from all the people of the earth: for this an especial providence alone can account.”

Even at such an early date, long before any possible restoration of Israel to their land was conceived, Clarke looked at this promise of the Lord and knew it had future implications for them as a people.

The Lord has granted Moses’ request, to include everything since verse 12, but without having the chiastic structure highlighted, the verses seem difficult to grasp and to follow; but with it available, the entire passage comes into clear focus. The requests of Moses are granted. And so, it validates the truth of the next words…

17 (con’t) for you have found grace in My sight,

What was unspoken in the pages of the Bible thus far, but which is implied as having been said because of Moses’ words of verse 12, is now spoken in an outright manner. Because of Moses’ intercession on behalf of his people, the Lord explicitly states, “…you have found grace in My sight.”

Now stop and think on this from a New Covenant perspective. If Moses was given such great and enduring promises from the Lord at a time when all of Israel had failed, and considering Moses’ state as a mere human mediator, how much more assured should we be of the greater and more eternal promises of Christ who is our Mediator! He is the God/Man who is there before the throne of His Father, interceding for us moment by moment as we fail to live up to His absolute perfection. Paul may have been thinking of this passage when he wrote these words from Romans –

“Yet in all these things we are more than conquerors through Him who loved us. 38 For I am persuaded that neither death nor life, nor angels nor principalities nor powers, nor things present nor things to come, 39 nor height nor depth, nor any other created thing, shall be able to separate us from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.” Romans 8:37-39

17 (con’t) and I know you by name.”

The chiasm is quickly racing in the opposite direction now. These words correspond to verse 12 which started our verses today. Moses was favored by the Lord; known to Him by name. Because of this, he could mediate out such a weighty and marvelous promise from Him. How much more then can we anticipate from the mediation of Christ!

He, the Son of the Father, is known in the most intimate way of all and He speaks on our behalf, ever-petitioning for us. Because of Christ, we each are intimately known by name. There could be no greater assurance in all of heaven or earth of that which we possess because of Him.

Stepping back to Moses for a moment, what is ironic is that his petition for the Lord’s Presence to be with the people until they received their rest will actually come back to bite him personally. He will die outside of the Land of Canaan for having not hallowed Him “in the midst of the children of Israel” (Deuteronomy 32:51).

Though judgment will come upon the offenders of the idolatry of the golden calf, and judgment will come upon many more – including Moses – before the wilderness wanderings are ended, the people as a whole would never have the divine Presence of God removed from them. Moses actually ended by taking the guilt of the people upon himself. Another marvelous picture of Christ in the countless thousands already seen.

The tabernacle will be built after all. The Presence will reside in their midst, and the people will be marvelously separated from the nations of the world. Like his forefather Jacob, Moses has struggled with God and men and he has prevailed. Because of this, he has a personal request of the Lord…

18 And he said, “Please, show me Your glory.”

Moses could have requested this at any previous time, but he only does so after he has secured the restoration of His people. This is amazingly similar to Jesus’ High Priestly prayer in John 17. Only after having completed the work on behalf of His people did Jesus ask to again share in the glory with His Father –

“I have glorified You on the earth. I have finished the work which You have given Me to do. And now, O Father, glorify Me together with Yourself, with the glory which I had with You before the world was.” John 17:4, 5

Now that the destiny of Israel is secure, the desires of Moses need to be quenched. He had experienced fellowship with God beyond anything any man since Adam had experienced, and yet everything he had seen to this point has only made him desirous of more. He wanted to fill himself up with the goodness of the Lord and so he asks hareni na eth kebodekha – “Show me, I pray, Your glory.”

Exactly what he is requesting is debated, but if one assumes that Moses was already aware of the Genesis account, then he is asking to see what Adam saw. He is asking to see the visible representation of the Lord who walked in perfect fellowship and harmony with our first father.

Before sin clouded man’s mind, he walked in fellowship with His Creator, but when sin entered Adam, he hid from Him and stood in fear of Him. Moses is asking that this division be ended and that a more perfect fellowship – the glory of God – be revealed to him. He has seen numerous and marvelous manifestations of God, but they concealed more than they revealed. Moses desires that to end.

Show me Your glory, O Lord, this I pray
Reveal to me that which I most desire to know
Let me see Your goodness set before me, here on this day
And reveal to me the path on which I should go

Here in Your word I come to seek Your face
And here in Your word do I come each day
It guides me in life from place to place
Show me Your glory, O Lord, this I pray

Open my eyes to the majesty set before me
Show me Your glory, O Lord, this I pray
And there I shall sing praises to You by the glassy sea
Until then I will seek You in Your word, day unto day

III. Here is a Place by Me (verse 19-23)

19 Then He said, “I will make all My goodness pass before you,

This promise is fulfilled in the words of Chapter 34 verses 5-7. He promises a special revelation of Himself to Moses where He will reveal all of His goodness before him. The word for “goodness,” tuv, is one which indicates beauty, gladness, welfare, and the like.

This goodness is certainly not a physical brilliance so much as it is the ethical reality of who the Lord is, represented elsewhere by the physical brilliance. This is the infinite ethical purity of God which transcends anything a human could ever grasp.

Further, the attributes of God are many, and they are all good, but some of them carry a negative connotation – justice for example carries the connotation of judgment on sin. As Moses is a fallen man, he could not bear to see His infinite purity in this manner. What Moses will behold is the merciful, gracious, compassionate Creator in a manner that he could assimilate. And as He so passes by, the Lord says that He will do something extra…

19 (cont’) and I will proclaim the name of the Lord before you.

The noun here is used for the pronoun. This is something common in Scripture. To proclaim a name is to proclaim the essence of the being which the name represents. The name will be proclaimed, or “called out” as the word implies, for Moses’ sake. He will be neither surprised and thus terrified, nor will he blink and miss his chance at the unique revelation of the Lord.

Yehovah will proclaim His coming as an exceptional act of grace to his trusted servant. It is something unmerited, and yet it is something which defines who He is. He is the God of all grace…

19 (cont’) I will be gracious to whom I will be gracious, and I will have compassion on whom I will have compassion.”

The Lord is notifying Moses that He will, in fact be gracious towards him, and thus towards the people on whose behalf he is petitioning, but He is not doing this to curry their favor. Rather, there are some who will be punished in light ways, and some who will be punished with a heavy hand.

Others will be pardoned and receive mercy. However, this doesn’t mean that they are better or more righteous than those who receive punishment, but because of His own sovereign will in His workings in redemptive history. His grace and compassion are neither arbitrary, nor are they to curry favor or to show vindictiveness.

Instead, He is sovereign. His judgments are righteous and His ways are perfect. What He does is a result of who He is and what He has determined. Paul uses this very verse in Romans 9 to upturn the self-righteous attitude of the Jews –

“What shall we say then? Is there unrighteousness with God? Certainly not! 15 For He says to Moses, ‘I will have mercy on whomever I will have mercy, and I will have compassion on whomever I will have compassion.’ 16 So then it is not of him who wills, nor of him who runs, but of God who shows mercy.” Romans 9:14-16

The Lord was not obligated to forgive Israel, nor was He bound to show His goodness to Moses. He was gracious because Moses found grace in His eyes. Grace is getting what one doesn’t deserve, and mercy is not getting what one does deserve. The person who receives either can’t boast of what he has received, and the person who doesn’t receive cannot find fault in what he has not received.

20 But He said, “You cannot see My face; for no man shall see Me, and live.”

These words have to be taken in the greater context of the Bible. It is not an inability to see God, but it is an inability to see the particular sight to which He refers. God revealed Himself to Jacob as Genesis 32:30 points out.

“So Jacob called the name of the place Peniel: ‘For I have seen God face to face, and my life is preserved.’” Genesis 32:30

The name Peniel means “Face of God.” And so he saw that sight which God chose to reveal. However, he did not see the fullness of God, represented by His face. Even in our eternal state, we will not see the fullness of God, nor could we. God is infinite in His being. For us to see God in His face, or in His infinite nature would mean that we would need to be infinite as well; able to comprehend all of who He is. For us to do so would mean that we would be God. But there is one God and only one. In Revelation 22, it says this –

“And there shall be no more curse, but the throne of God and of the Lamb shall be in it, and His servants shall serve Him. They shall see His face, and His name shall be on their foreheads.” Revelation 22:3, 4

We will behold the Lamb. We shall see His face as He endlessly, ceaselessly reveals the infinite Father to us. There will never be a time when we will have seen all of God, even until the ages of ages. There will always be more to know. This is why Moses could not see the face of the Lord. He could not behold all that God is.

21 And the Lord said, “Here is a place by Me, and you shall stand on the rock.

Here we have a picture being developed for us. The Lord has a specific place in mind which is near to Him. He asks Moses to stand al ha’tsur, or “on the rock.” There is a definite article in front of rock, it is not “a” rock, but “the rock.” This is where Moses is to position himself. Matthew Henry rightly states –

“The rock in Horeb was typical of Christ the Rock; the Rock of refuge, salvation, and strength. Happy are they who stand upon this Rock.”

When the glory of the Lord passes by, Moses will be at this place of refuge. He will see this marvelous vision, but he will be kept safe while there. The reason is explained in the next verse…

22 So it shall be, while My glory passes by, that I will put you in the cleft of the rock,

The Lord says as His glory passes by, He will take Moses and place him in the cleft of the rock. The word is neqarah and is used only twice in the Bible, here and in Isaiah 2:21. It indicates that which is dug or gouged out, thus a cleft.

The question is, why didn’t He just tell Moses to go hide in the cleft of the rock? Instead he says He will place him there. The answer is that it is God who places us in Christ. It is we who choose to stand upon the Rock, but only God places us into Christ. It is a picture of being saved from the complete destructive power of God in relation to sinful man.

One is either in Christ and secure from what must happen when man faces the infinitely holy God, or they are not in Christ and can only make a futile attempt to hide themselves. As I said, the word for “cleft,” neqarah, is only used twice. The other time shows the futility of the man who attempts to hide from the Lord –

“In that day a man will cast away his idols of silver
And his idols of gold,
Which they made, each for himself to worship,
To the moles and bats,
21 To go into the clefts of the rocks,
And into the crags of the rugged rocks,
From the terror of the Lord
And the glory of His majesty,
When He arises to shake the earth mightily.
22 Sever yourselves from such a man,
Whose breath is in his nostrils;
For of what account is he?” Isaiah 2:20-22

22 (con’t) and will cover you with My hand while I pass by.

Moses will not just be hidden in the Rock, but the Lord will also cover him from His splendor. Thus He will be both concealed and protected when the perfections of love, grace, mercy, justice, truth, righteousness, holiness, wisdom, and the like are revealed. Without such a covering, Moses would be destroyed. But hidden in the Rock, he will be spared from that fate. The words of this verse are reflective of the truth spoken by Paul in Colossians 3 –

“If then you were raised with Christ, seek those things which are above, where Christ is, sitting at the right hand of God. Set your mind on things above, not on things on the earth. For you died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God. When Christ who is our life appears, then you also will appear with Him in glory.” Colossians 3:1-4

Our lives are hidden in Christ, the Rock. At the same time we are protected from the wrath of God. His perfections, which we fail to meet in our fallen selves, are kept from us by the covering of Christ, God’s right hand of power. However, the glory that was hidden from Moses will be revealed to us in the future. It will be an eternity of God revealing His goodness to us, moment by moment without ceasing, and without an instant of anything less than awed wonder.

23 Then I will take away My hand, and you shall see My back;

The verses are filled with anthropomorphisms – hand, face, back are all human attributes which are being used for us to understand, in a limited way, what we are intended to know. And yet, at the same time, there is a hint of what God would do in the future through Christ.

The term for “back” is akhorai – My back. The word means more than just the back. It is used to indicate “west.” When looking towards the Lord in the tabernacle or temple, His face would be towards us, looking east. Thus His back would be west. It is the direction which we aspire to go towards – ever towards His face.

It is used to indicate the hereafter in Isaiah 41. In other words, things that are yet future. Thus, the Rock is Christ, our safe Refuge. The Hand is Christ, our Protector. The Face is Christ, the Revealer of God. And the Back is Christ, the One who is to come.  What Moses saw was the glory of Christ as He would come afterwards in human flesh, revealing the Father to us. This is what John 1:14 is referring to –

“And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we beheld His glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father, full of grace and truth.”

Moses saw the revelation of what God was doing in the stream of time in order to bring us back to Himself. This is why later, in the Song of Moses, he wrote these words –

“For I proclaim the name of the Lord:
Ascribe greatness to our God.
He is the Rock, His work is perfect;
For all His ways are justice,
A God of truth and without injustice;
Righteous and upright is He.” Deuteronomy 32:3, 4

He understood that Yehovah was the Rock. The symbolism was revealed to Him and thus God showed him His glory.

*23 (fin) but My face shall not be seen.”

To close out our verses, Moses was reminded that the face of God, was not to be seen. But as we already know, Jacob saw His face by the river Jabbok. Abraham saw His face as He traveled towards the destruction of Sodom. Joshua will see His face as He stands as the Commander of the Lord’s army.

Gideon, the parents of Samson, and others as well encountered the Man who moves through time because He is from outside of time. Each saw the Man while not seeing the full essence of the Lord. And we too shall see His face as the glory of God streams from Him for an infinite number of days.

We are hidden in Christ, and thus God will allow us to look west towards Him as He looks east towards us, forever revealing the goodness which Moses merely tasted for a moment in time. If you want a part of that marvelous goodness which God offers; if you seek Him but aren’t sure if you have sought Him in the right manner, today is the day of good news for you.

He has His hands out and is waiting for you to stand upon the Rock and to be protected by the covering of Christ, the power of God for all who believe. Let me take just another minute to tell you about Jesus and how you can be right with God through Him…

Closing Verse: “The Lord your God in your midst,
The Mighty One, will save;
He will rejoice over you with gladness,
He will quiet you with His love,
He will rejoice over you with singing.” Zephaniah 3:17

Next Week: Exodus 34:1-9 Moses asks, “Set for us this precedence… (Take Us as Your Inheritance) (94th Exodus Sermon)

The Lord has you exactly where He wants you. He has a good plan and purpose for you. Even if a deep ocean lies ahead of You, He can part the waters and lead you through it on dry ground. So follow Him and trust Him and He will do marvelous things for you and through you.

Safe in the Cleft of the Rock

Then Moses said to the Lord
“See, ‘Bring up this people.’ So You say to me
But You have not let me know
Whom You will send with me; who will it be?

Yet You have said, ‘I know you by name; which is right
And you have also found grace in My sight

Now therefore, I pray
If I have found grace in Your sight
Show me now Your way
That I may know You, alright?

And that I may in Your sight find grace
And consider that this nation is Your people; here in this place

And He said, “My Presence will go with you
And I will give you rest, what I have spoken is true

Then he said to Him
“If Your Presence with us does not go
Do not bring us up from here
It would be better that we stayed here, even so

For how then will it be known
That Your people and I have found grace in Your sight
Except You go with us
Surely then we would see that in us You delight

So we shall be separate, Your people and I, as if a new birth
From all the people who are upon the face of the earth

So the Lord said to Moses
“I will also do this thing that you have spoken
For you have found grace in My sight
And I know you by name, this word shall not be broken

And he said, “Please, show me Your glory”
Then He said, “I will make all My goodness pass before you
And I will proclaim the name of the Lord before you
So this is the thing that I shall do

Gracious to whom I will be gracious will I be
And I will have compassion on whom I will have compassion
Thus it is, as you now see

But He said, “You cannot see My face, this word I give
For no man shall see Me, and live
And the Lord said, “Here is a place by Me
And you shall stand on the rock, and you shall see

So it shall be, while My glory passes by
That in the cleft of the rock I will put you
And will cover you with My hand
While I pass by; this I will do

Then I will take away My hand, and you shall see My back
But My face shall not be seen; this sight you shall lack

Heavenly Father, how good it is to know
That there is a place of safety both in and from Your majesty
Jesus does to us Your majesty show
And Jesus also reveals it slowly, for all eternity

And so we are not consumed by Your glory
Instead we can revel in it, seeking out Your face
This is the marvel of the Gospel story
This is why we come to gather in this place

Thank You, O God, that for the ages we will glory in You
Because of what Jesus Christ for us alone does do

And so in His name we give You all of our praise
And we shall do so for all the ages, even for eternal days

Hallelujah and Amen…




Exodus 33:1-11 (Everyone Who Sought the Lord)

Exodus 33:1-11
Everyone Who Sought the Lord

The chiasm which spans all of chapter 32 and through most of chapter 34 continues on in this passage. It is bringing us closer to the anchor verse which will come in just one more sermon. Until then, the structure of the chiasm appears to reveal to us the proper placement of the verses which we will look at today.

However, the verses today aren’t just a set of verses that need to be properly aligned chronologically into the on-going narrative. They are also verses which show us a snapshot of Israel at several points throughout their history. The people disobey the Lord, the Lord distances Himself from them, but He also makes Himself available to them, at least individually, even if collectively they are out of His favor.

Today’s verses show a separation between the Lord and Israel. Today’s world shows the same. They are still under the promises of one covenant, while out of the favor of another one. As long as people can understand this, then it makes sense as to why they have remained a people despite their immense disobedience towards Him, and even their outright rejection of Him.

If He were to completely reject them, then His promises to their father’s would be voided. This will never happen. An oath of God will never, never fail.

When we see Christians being killed around the world, and especially for those Christians who are facing such persecution, it might seem that God’s promises have failed for us. That is, if we look at this world as our promised inheritance. Way too many Christians seem to look at it in that regard.

But there are no enduring promises that we won’t face a lifetime full of trouble, pain, persecution, or misery. This is why the Bible notes we live by faith, not by sight. If this world were our true reward, then we might have reason to feel that way. But it is not.

We have a true inheritance that can never be taken away from us. God has spoken this, and it is true. When we get feeling like we may have been forgotten, all we really need to do is look at Israel. They have actively rejected the Lord, and yet He has remained faithful to them because of His former promises.

We have called on Christ, and His word says that because of that we have an eternal inheritance. Just as He has been faithful to unfaithful Israel, He will surely demonstrate the same faithfulness to us because of the sure promises found in Christ.

Text Verse:  In Him also we have obtained an inheritance, being predestined according to the purpose of Him who works all things according to the counsel of His will, 12 that we who first trusted in Christ should be to the praise of His glory.
13 In Him you also trusted, after you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation; in whom also, having believed, you were sealed with the Holy Spirit of promise, 14 who is the guarantee of our inheritance until the redemption of the purchased possession, to the praise of His glory. Ephesians 1:11-14

These are the verses I send people to, time and again, when they are filled with bad doctrine concerning our inheritance. There is an entire camp of people out there who look at the salvation granted to us as a conditional thing; something we can lose.

However, if there is something that we can do (or not do) in order to lose our salvation, then it is not of grace at all – and it never was. Whether leading up to our salvation or following along after it, if there is something that is required by us, then it is not of grace, but of works.

Further, if we trusted in Christ, believed the word of truth which is the gospel of our salvation, and then were sealed with the Holy Spirit as a guarantee, then what has happened must be eternal. If it was not, then that was 1) a rather crummy guarantee, and 2) God made a mistake.

Such things call into question the workings of God. Let us never presume to do that, even internally as we struggle and doubt our salvation. Today’s passage continues to show us that the Lord was still there for Israel. He may have distanced Himself from them, but He has not left them, nor forsaken them. Neither will He do this to you. These are truths which are found in His superior word. And so let’s turn to that precious word once again and… May God speak to us through His word today and may His glorious name ever be praised.

I. A Stiff-necked People (verses 1-3)

Then the Lord said to Moses, “Depart and go up from here,

John Lange says, “This is one of the most mysterious chapters in all the three books of the covenant.” He is right. It is extremely hard to follow what is going on, and where the words belong in the narrative. However, it is not impossible to determine.

The words of chapter 33 and part of 34 are an expansion of what was said when Moses went back up the mountain after the narrative of the golden calf. This is similar, for example, to Genesis 2 being an insert into the sixth day record of Genesis 1. After the debacle of the golden calf, Moses ascended the mountain again where we read this –

Now it came to pass on the next day that Moses said to the people, “You have committed a great sin. So now I will go up to the Lord; perhaps I can make atonement for your sin.” 31 Then Moses returned to the Lord and said, “Oh, these people have committed a great sin, and have made for themselves a god of gold! 32 Yet now, if You will forgive their sin—but if not, I pray, blot me out of Your book which You have written.”
33 And the Lord said to Moses, “Whoever has sinned against Me, I will blot him out of My book. 34 Now therefore, go, lead the people to the place of which I have spoken to you. Behold, My Angel shall go before you. Nevertheless, in the day when I visit for punishment, I will visit punishment upon them for their sin.”

The details which we are seeing in Chapter 33, through verse 9 of chapter 34, chronologically belong between verses 33 and 34 of Chapter 32. The Lord said to Moses that He would blot out of His book the one who sinned against him. This account follows, and then the promise of the final verses of the chapter next are given. Confusing, yes. But it appears logical and orderly when laid out.

For now, Moses is told to “Depart and go up from here” with the abrupt words lek aleh mizzeh.

What appears to be the case is that everything promised to Moses on Mount Sinai which encompass all of the details of the construction of the tabernacle, and everything associated with it, was suspended. Moses was given all of those instructions with the anticipation that it would be built, and that the Lord would dwell in their midst as they traveled.

However, now they are being directed to simply go up from their place of encampment. This is based on a completely different covenant made at a completely different time, meaning at the time of Abraham. As for the covenant which was just made since their arrival at Sinai, that was to be disregarded; it was voided by the golden calf.

1 (con’t) you and the people whom you have brought out of the land of Egypt,

The words again reflect the sentiment that they are not the covenant people. The Lord says, as He did in verse 32:7, that they are the people Moses brought out of the land of Egypt. The Lord has distanced Himself from the people due to their disgraceful conduct.

1 (con’t) to the land of which I swore to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, saying, ‘To your descendants I will give it.’

Regardless of the status of the covenant between the Lord and the people, the issue of the inheritance of the land does not change. It was firmly resolved while Moses was on Mt. Sinai with the Lord the previous time. When the matter of the covenant violation arose, the following exchange came about between the two –

And the Lord said to Moses, “I have seen this people, and indeed it is a stiff-necked people! 10 Now therefore, let Me alone, that My wrath may burn hot against them and I may consume them. And I will make of you a great nation.”
11 Then Moses pleaded with the Lord his God, and said: “Lord, why does Your wrath burn hot against Your people whom You have brought out of the land of Egypt with great power and with a mighty hand? 12 Why should the Egyptians speak, and say, ‘He brought them out to harm them, to kill them in the mountains, and to consume them from the face of the earth’? Turn from Your fierce wrath, and relent from this harm to Your people. 13 Remember Abraham, Isaac, and Israel, Your servants, to whom You swore by Your own self, and said to them, ‘I will multiply your descendants as the stars of heaven; and all this land that I have spoken of I give to your descendants, and they shall inherit it forever.’” 14 So the Lord relented from the harm which He said He would do to His people. Exodus 32:9-14

The people, despite their rebellion would be the particular line of descendants who would receive the promises made to their fathers before them.

And I will send My Angel before you, and I will drive out the Canaanite and the Amorite and the Hittite and the Perizzite and the Hivite and the Jebusite.

This is the same general promise as in Exodus 23:23 which said –

“For My Angel will go before you and bring you in to the Amorites and the Hittites and the Perizzites and the Canaanites and the Hivites and the Jebusites; and I will cut them off.”

This same promise concerning these inhabitants will be repeated in Exodus 34:11. All three are under the same context. However, the order of the names varies in all three. The Canaanite group moves within each verse, but the other four – the Amorites, Hittites, Perizzites, Hivites, and Jebusites stay in the same order. No idea why, just thought I would share that with you.

Amorites Hittites Perizzites Canaanites Hivites Jebusites.
Canaanite Amorite Hittite Perizzite Hivite Jebusite.
Amorite Canaanite Hittite Perizzite Hivite Jebusite.

Also, the Hebrew does not say “My Angel.” Instead it simply says “angel.” The word “my” is inserted by the translators. This then leaves in doubt who exactly is going to lead them.

Go up to a land flowing with milk and honey;

This is the fourth of 20 times that this expression will be used in the Bible. The last time will be in Ezekiel 20 where it is also called “the glory of all lands.” A land flowing with milk and honey implies richness and fertility.

Milk comes from cows and so it means there will be abundant pasture lands. Honey comes from bees which pollinate flowers and so it implies all sorts of fruit trees, herbs, and flowers.

Further the term “a land flowing with milk and honey” has a spiritual connotation. It isn’t just speaking of the physical abundance but also of spiritual abundance. It is the land of God’s word and the people through whom that word has come.

The word of God is said to be sweeter than honey. It is also equated with milk which nourishes. Thus, this is a reference to that as well. The land would literally flow with milk and honey for sustaining Israel’s physical lives. It would also flow with milk and honey for sustaining their spiritual lives.

At this time, they do not know this, and with the covenant broken, only the first can be assumed. Only in looking back after the fact can we see that both the physical and spiritual aspects of this verse have come about in Israel.

For now, the words are certainly given to shame the people for their ingratitude towards the already abundant provision of the Lord. He has given them Manna and water from the rock. He has given them meat. He has protected them and made a covenant with them.

Despite all of this, and so much more, they rejected Him. And yet he directs them to go up to the land, flowing with milk and honey, which was set apart for them.

3 (con’t) for I will not go up in your midst,

This verse doesn’t say that the Lord will not go up with them. It says the He will not go up b’qirbekha, or “in the middle of you.” The word qerev gives the idea of the inward part. The fact that He just said, “I will drive out the Canaanite and the Amorite and the Hittite and the Perizzite and the Hivite and the Jebusite” shows that He intended to go ahead of them, just not among them. And there is a reason why He intends to not go in their midst…

3 (con’t) lest I consume you on the way,

Elsewhere, the Lord is called a consuming fire. That which He does not purify with His presence is burnt up in it. The Lord says that He would not go up in their midst because if He did, it would be catastrophic for them. And the reason is expressly given…

3 (con’t) for you are a stiff-necked people.”

This is now the second time that this term, “stiff-necked” is used in the Bible. It is a metaphor which is normally explained as being obstinate, but it is more than that. It defines a perverse people who want to behave in a way which is both unacceptable and unreasonable, even in spite of the consequences they will face.

You want a home, a place where you can stay
Go up there and make it ready on your own
I shall not be with you lest I consume you on the way
Don’t weep to Me; nor to Me shall you moan

You have forgotten Me and so now I have let go of you
There will be a distance between the two of us
There is nothing more that You can do
Unless You call upon My Son; upon the Lord Jesus

You want a home, and it is waiting there for you
One that He alone has made and can endow
If You call on Him, He is faithful and He is true
You can come home through Him, this I do avow

II. From Mount Horeb (verses 4-6)

And when the people heard this bad news, they mourned,

What is implied is that Moses went back down the mountain at this time. The events are still a part of the insert between verses 33 and 34 of the previous chapter, and they will continue to be so throughout chapter 33. Like I said, this is an insert chapter which fills in details which bring about a resulting action. It is the same as the details of Genesis 2 filling in what was missing in Genesis 1 and which led to a resulting action.

Having gone down to the people, he told them what the Lord had said. In His rejection of them because of the violation of the covenant, and His words that He would not go in their midst, it brought about a great sense of mourning. The word used is abal. It is only the second time that it has been used in the Bible.

To get the sense of their state, we can go to the first use of the word. It was in Genesis 37 when Jacob heard of the death of Joseph –

And he recognized it and said, “It is my son’s tunic. A wild beast has devoured him. Without doubt Joseph is torn to pieces.” 34 Then Jacob tore his clothes, put sackcloth on his waist, and mourned for his son many days.

The grieving of Israel was profound over the bad news they had been given. It is a pattern which will be seen again in their history. Only when the knowledge of their sin is highlighted do they realize their horrible plight and mourn over their actions. An account, not too distant in their future will indicate the same type of mourning.

The people will refuse to enter Canaan when the twelve spies return with a bad report about the land. They will face the Lord’s sentence concerning their punishment and the same type of mourning will be mentioned.

4 (con’t) and no one put on his ornaments.

As a sign of their mourning, the people refrained from adorning themselves. The Hebrew reads “and no man put on his ornaments.” The masculine would include all people. The word for ornaments is introduced into the Bible here, adi. It is from the verb adah which means “to adorn.” The ornaments could indicate finery, an outfit, something worn on the head, etc.

Wearing ornaments today is no different than back then. They bring attention to oneself. They highlight and intensify the perception of a person. In not wearing ornaments then, it is a sign that a person wants no such attention and is thus in a state of grief. This is seen, for example, in the book of Jonah –

“So the people of Nineveh believed God, proclaimed a fast, and put on sackcloth, from the greatest to the least of them. Then word came to the king of Nineveh; and he arose from his throne and laid aside his robe, covered himself with sackcloth and sat in ashes.” Jonah 3:5, 6

For the Lord had said to Moses, “Say to the children of Israel, ‘You are a stiff-necked people.

The tense of the words of this verse isn’t completely clear. Some scholars see this as a statement which followed, rather than preceded, the people’s repentance. The dolts at Cambridge find another answer by saying that –

“The people are here told to do what they have already done” which is “a clear proof that two narratives have been combined.”

In other words, they say that there are multiple authors who have been combined into one narrative. Were that so, they would have made a clearer, not a less clear transition.

It is probably correct that these words follow the people’s repentance. Because of this, the next clause is not a threat of destruction, but a repetition of what has already been said as an explanation as to why He would not be in the midst of them…

5 (con’t) I could come up into your midst in one moment and consume you.

Were the Lord to come into their midst, even for a moment, He might be inclined to consume them. The word rega, or “moment” is introduced here. It is from the verb raga which gives the idea of suddenness. It thus indicates the wink of an eye or something instantaneous. It is used twice in a affectionate passage from Isaiah when speaking of the Lord’s tenderness towards Israel –

“For a mere moment I have forsaken you,
But with great mercies I will gather you.
With a little wrath I hid My face from you for a moment;
But with everlasting kindness I will have mercy on you,”
Says the Lord, your Redeemer. Isaiah 54:7, 8

5 (con’t) Now therefore, take off your ornaments, that I may know what to do to you.’”

If the first clause came after the repentance of the people, then the words here would naturally follow in that same vein. And so instead of these words being a command to take off their ornaments, they are a command to lay them aside altogether.

The word is yarad and it means “down.” Therefore, it is an admonition to leave the ornaments off entirely. In obedience to this, and in that humbled state, the Lord would decide what He would do with the people. This is likely from the next verse…

So the children of Israel stripped themselves of their ornaments by Mount Horeb.

The words here say that they stripped off their ornaments “from Mount Horeb.” John Lange says this means, “on account of.” But even more fully than that is that the people stripped off their ornaments from that time on. Because of what occurred, they left them off entirely and kept them off. They remained in a perpetual state of penitence.

What is most interesting is that the term Horeb has not been used since Exodus 17:6. Since then, the term Sinai has been used eight times. Then, the term Horeb won’t be used again until Deuteronomy 1:2, but the term Sinai will be used numerous times by then.

Although they are used almost synonymously, because Horeb and Sinai are used to indicate the same place, the words are selected to be used for different reasons when they are, in fact, used. Horeb means “Arid” or “Desert.” Sinai means “Bush of the Thorn.”

The different names are used to show different aspects of what is going on. When Sinai is used, it is normally referring to the on-going redemptive workings of God for His people. When Horeb is used, it indicates the total dependence of the people on the provision of the Lord, or it indicates that which has been accomplished by Him already.

Here in the desert, the people need the Lord to sustain them. They have fallen out of favor with Him, and so Horeb is the right and proper term to use for their needy condition. From Horeb on, they have put away their ornaments in seeking the favor of the Lord.

The Lord is righteous, and it is we who have strayed
He gave us laws with which to guide our ways
But we turned from them and our hearts were swayed
And now we live out saddened, miserable days

Return to us, O Lord, heal our erring ways
Grants us again Your presence in our midst
Where we can lavish upon You all of our praise
Let go of Your anger, and loosen your terrible fist

Lord God, to You our eyes are turned
And to You our hearts shall be directed always
For closeness with You our desire has burned
It shall never be quenched, even for eternal days

III. The Tent of Meeting (verses 7-11)

Moses took his tent and pitched it outside the camp,

This verse now explains the separation of the Lord from the people. He would not dwell in their midst at this time, but rather a far distance from them in order to not consume them in His wrath. The Hebrew says ha’ohel, or “the tent.” The definite article is thus believed to indicate Moses’ personal tent. Moses’ tent was probably the finest in the camp and thus he moved it out from the camp in order to meet with the Lord.

7 (con’t) far from the camp,

The term “far from the camp” implies quite a distance. When the Ark went before the people as they crossed into the Land of Promise in Joshua 3, the distance between the people and the ark was 2000 cubits, or 3000 feet. It is quite a distance, and is probably comparable to the distance Moses was from the camp itself.

7 (con’t) and called it the tabernacle of meeting.

As has been typical with the KJV and the NKJV, they incorrectly call this “the tabernacle of meeting” instead of the “tent of meeting.” It is the same word as was just used at the beginning of the verse – ohel. It means “tent.” The word for “tabernacle” is mishkan. The KJV gets two demerits and the NKJV gets one.

7 (con’t) And it came to pass that everyone who sought the Lord went out to the tabernacle of meeting which was outside the camp.

The Lord was not in their midst, but He was not altogether unavailable to the people. They could venture out of the camp to meet with Him if they chose to do so. This precept is similar to the words of Hebrews 13 concerning those who would come to Christ. If the people want to meet with the Lord, they must be willing to do it on His terms –

“Therefore Jesus also, that He might sanctify the people with His own blood, suffered outside the gate. 13 Therefore let us go forth to Him, outside the camp, bearing His reproach.” Hebrews 13:12, 13

This separation was to be a reminder to them that they were not in favor with the Lord. In order to seek Him, they had to come to Him. The covenant was nullified through their actions and thus it was up to them to come humbly out of the camp, bearing the reproach of their actions in order to seek His face once again.

What is of note is that the words “everyone who sought the Lord” implies that not everyone sought the Lord. Some did and some did not. Those who did had to go to where the Lord would meet with Moses, or “He who draws out,” as his name means.

It is to be remembered that these verses are an insert into the ending of Chapter 32. Once the insert is finished, the narrative continued to the end of Chapter 32 with these words –

Now therefore, go, lead the people to the place of which I have spoken to you. Behold, My Angel shall go before you. Nevertheless, in the day when I visit for punishment, I will visit punishment upon them for their sin.”
35 So the Lord plagued the people because of what they did with the calf which Aaron made. Exodus 32:34, 35

A time of  punishment lies ahead. However, the Lord offers grace before that time comes. He has given grace by leaving their midst and not destroying them. He has given grace by allowing them to come out of the camp to Him. And He has given grace by allowing restoration for those who do seek Him. Thus we see the truth found in Romans 5 –

“Moreover the law entered that the offense might abound. But where sin abounded, grace abounded much more.” Romans 5:20

And so in this narrative, we actually have a picture of Israel after their collective rejection of Jesus. They had forsaken the Lord and He no longer dwells in their midst. But He has still offered them individual grace before the time of punishment comes, meaning the tribulation period. Any who choose to do so can come outside the camp, bearing His reproach in order to be reconciled to Him.

So it was, whenever Moses went out to the tabernacle, that all the people rose, and each man stood at his tent door and watched Moses until he had gone into the tabernacle.

This is an obvious sign of respect that is being portrayed here. The tent was not so far off that it could not be seen when Moses entered into it, but it was far off enough so that the people were reminded that the Lord was no longer in their midst.

As he passed through them, they would rise, and during the intervening time until his arrival, they would stand at the door of their tent watching the amazing scene of close and personal fellowship of which they were now denied.

The pethakh, or door, is that place which provides access. There seems to be a hint of symbolism here. As the people watched Moses walk towards the Tent of Meeting, they waited and watched at their own door. It was as if they were inviting the Lord to come to them if He so chose.

They were apart from Him and estranged from Him, but they still held out hope that He would make a change and come to them. Their ornaments were put aside and their hearts were being molded for a time of restoration.

And so they waited “until” Moses went into the tent. It was as if they had hoped that maybe he would turn around and rejoin them in the camp. If so, maybe the Lord would come into their midst instead of being separate from them.

Again, it is as if a picture of Israel after Christ’s first advent is being seen here. They rejected the Lord, went out after gods of gold, and found that they had lost His favor. Individually, they could come out to Him, but collectively, He is not there for them.

For the people at Sinai, it will not be until the sanctuary is built that the Lord will again reside in their midst. And it will not be until the time that Christ comes to His temple in Jerusalem that He will once again be in the midst of Israel. The words of Ecclesiastes shout out to us of the repetitive patterns of history –

That which has been is what will be,
That which is done is what will be done,
And there is nothing new under the sun. Ecclesiastes 1:9

Nothing is new. Each thing that comes about is already something that has occurred. God does this so that we can call the past to remembrance and be confident of what the proper course for our future should be.

And it came to pass, when Moses entered the tabernacle, that the pillar of cloud descended and stood at the door of the tabernacle,

Only when Moses was within the tent would the pillar descend and stand at the pethakh, or door. The place of access is where the meeting between the two would take place. The divine presence descending there for the people to see was an assertion of the authority of Moses.

Where they were set off from the Lord and considered unacceptable to fellowship with, Moses was given the Lord’s approval that his actions retained the Lord’s favor. By coming in this way, and after Moses was within the door of the tent, there could be no possibility of deception.

The cloud moved according to its own design and apart from any possibility of Moses’ having been behind its movement. Although unstated, it can be inferred that this was a regular occurrence.

Instead of the cloud coming and staying after Moses’ first visit, it was what occurred each time Moses went to the tent. When the meeting was over, the cloud probably went back to the top of Sinai. Interestingly, the term “pillar,” when speaking of this cloud, has not been seen since Exodus 14:24.

The cloud has been mentioned several times as having been atop the mountain, but the term pillar has not accompanied it since then. The ammud, or pillar, comes from the word amad, or stand. Thus, in this we get the idea that the standing cloud stood at the door of the tent.

9 (con’t) and the Lord talked with Moses.

Once there, it says, “…and talked with Moses.” The words “the Lord” are inserted by the translators. The standing cloud is the subject of the verb. It is directly equated with the presence of the Lord. It is how the Lord has manifested Himself to Moses and in the sight of the people.

A cloud is that which covers or conceals a thing. Throughout Scripture, the cloud is used to signify the coming and going of the presence of the Lord. It is this display which the Lord chose to come to Moses in the sight of the people, reminding them that just as He had delivered through the Red Sea and led them in the wilderness to Sinai, He was still there.

They had forgotten Him, even though His presence was in full sight atop Sinai, and now they had to see His presence from a distance as Moses talked and intimately fellowshipped with Him.

10 All the people saw the pillar of cloud standing at the tabernacle door, and all the people rose and worshiped, each man in his tent door.

This verse leads us to the notion that the cloud didn’t just suddenly appear as soon as Moses went into the tent. Instead, the people stood all the time that Moses walked to the tent. Then the people would sit down and wait for the next great thing to occur, the appearing of the cloud.

Once the cloud appeared, the people would rise again and worship, as it says, “each man in his tent door.” For the fourth time in just three verses, the pethakh or door is mentioned. It is as if a stress is being laid on the door of the people to show that they wished that the Lord would come into them.

They worshipped him not in groups, but individually. It was a sign that they would gladly welcome Him in and have Him fellowship with them as well. They had lost His favor and this was their way of begging for that favor to be restored to them once again. For them, that time was gone, but for Moses, it continued on uninterrupted…

11 So the Lord spoke to Moses face to face,

These words are to be taken in the sense of familiarity as they will next be described. The Lord at this time came in the pillar, without discernable face or mouth. Rather, the term panim el panim, or “face to face,” means that they had open and free discussion without anything to hinder their words. In essence, the Lord has allowed Moses to speak to Him personally intimately, even…

11 (con’t) as a man speaks to his friend.

When a man speaks to his friend, titles and formalities are set aside. Instead, there is a warmth and a closeness that permeates the conversation. It is the highest note of the character of Moses and the bond between him and his Lord. It is something that very few in the Old Testament ever attained the honor of knowing, even remotely, in comparison to Moses.

*11 (fin) And he would return to the camp, but his servant Joshua the son of Nun, a young man, did not depart from the tabernacle.

When Moses’s time at the Tent of Meeting was done, he would make the trek back to the camp. This is expected as he would carry the messages of the Lord back, and he would also be needed in the camp for advice and direction over a host of matters. But once again, the enigmatic Joshua shows up out of the blue as he has already done a few times. He is identified in three ways.

  • He is Moses’ servant.
  • He is the son of Nun.
  • He is a young man.

The word for servant means a to minster or serve. He is the one who tends to the needs of Moses as a general’s aide would tend to the needs of his superior. His father’s name, Nun, is introduced into the Bible here. The name comes from the verb nun which means to propagate or increase. It is used only once in the Bible, in a messianic psalm when speaking of the reign of the King –

“His name shall endure forever;
His name shall continue as long as the sun.
And men shall be blessed in Him;
All nations shall call Him blessed.” Psalm 72:17

And he is lastly noted as a young man. This despite the fact that it says this in Joshua 14:10 –

“And now, behold, the Lord has kept me alive, as He said, these forty-five years, ever since the Lord spoke this word to Moses while Israel wandered in the wilderness; and now, here I am this day, eighty-five years old.”

This means that Joshua is now about 38 or 39 years old. Therefore, the term na’ar, or young man, is probably being used either in relation to Moses who is over 80, or it is referring to his years of service to the Lord, he being a young man in his time of duties.

The name Joshua, or Yehoshua, is a contraction of Yehovah and yasha. Thus his name means “Yehovah is salvation.” In this final verse of the day is a picture of the work of the Lord. Moses, or He who draws out” is the one who draws out from the Lord that which is for the people, and from the people that which is for the Lord.

Yehoshua, or the “Lord is Salvation,” remains outside the camp, there at the place where the Lord meets with either the people or the people’s mediator. Either way, the people must come to where he is at. Isaiah 59 tells the people that –

“Behold, the Lord’s hand is not shortened,
That it cannot save;
Nor His ear heavy,
That it cannot hear.
But your iniquities have separated you from your God;
And your sins have hidden His face from you,
So that He will not hear.
For your hands are defiled with blood,
And your fingers with iniquity;
Your lips have spoken lies,
Your tongue has muttered perversity.”

The sins of the people had, in fact, separated them from their God. He was there and willing to save, but the people had to come to Him to be restored to Him. This is the state of Israel today. Most still have not come outside the camp to Him, nor have they come through His Mediator to Him. Instead, they sit at their doors worshipping from afar and are not in His presence.

For the people at Sinai, their time of restoration lies ahead. And for Israel collectively, the same is true. The Lord’s hand is not shortened, but the people’s unwillingness to allow the outstretched hand to heal them remains an impassable obstacle to their restoration.

Today as we close, I would ask you to remember Israel in your prayers. They will be restored, but of them, who, how, and when is not known to us. Therefore, it is incumbent on us to pray for them, just as any lost souls. They need Jesus and they need to come outside their camp, to where He is, in order to find Him.

And the same may be true of you. Maybe you’re listening today and have never raised yourself up and acknowledged Him in your life. If so, you are no closer to God than the worst heathen. But you can get that corrected by a simple acknowledgment of your state and His ability to fix it. Let me explain that to you…

Closing Verse: “Jacob shall not now be ashamed,
Nor shall his face now grow pale;
23 But when he sees his children,
The work of My hands, in his midst,
They will hallow My name,
And hallow the Holy One of Jacob,
And fear the God of Israel.
24 These also who erred in spirit will come to understanding,
And those who complained will learn doctrine.” Isaiah 29:22-24

Next Week: Exodus 33:12-23 The news is great, in fact for them it will be the best… (My Presence Will Go With You, And I Will Give You Rest) (93rd Exodus Sermon)

The Lord has you exactly where He wants you. He has a good plan and purpose for you. Even if a deep ocean lies ahead of You, He can part the waters and lead you through it on dry ground. So follow Him and trust Him and He will do marvelous things for you and through you.

Everyone Who Sought the Lord

Then the Lord said to Moses
Depart and go up from here, He did command
You and the people whom
You have brought out of Egypt the land

To the land of which I swore to Abraham
Isaac, and Jacob, saying
“To your descendants I will give it
So to you I am relaying

And I will send My Angel before you
And I will drive out the Canaanite, that’s right
And the Amorite and the Hittite too
And the Perizzite and the Hivite and the Jebusite

Go up to a land flowing with milk and honey
For I will not in your midst go up with you
Lest I consume you on the way
For you are a stiff-necked people, it is true

And when the people heard this bad news, there at their tents
They mourned, and no one put on his ornaments

For the Lord had said to Moses
“Say to the children of Israel
‘You are a stiff-necked people
And you know this very well

I could come up into your midst in one moment
And consume you, so could I do
Now therefore, take off your ornaments
That I may know what to do to you

So, stripped themselves did the children of Israel
Of their ornaments by Mount Horeb, as the record does tell

Moses took his tent and pitched it
Outside the camp, far from the camp he went
And called it the tabernacle of meeting
Yes, this is the name he called this tent

And it came to pass that everyone
Who sought the Lord, so we know
Went out to the tabernacle of meeting
Which was outside the camp, there they did go

So it was, whenever Moses went out
To the tabernacle, that all the people rose
And each man stood at his tent door and watched Moses
Until he had gone into the tabernacle, before they again did repose

And it came to pass, when Moses entered the tabernacle
That the pillar of cloud descended, him to meet
And stood at the door of the tabernacle
And the Lord talked with Moses, in fellowship sweet

All the people saw the pillar of cloud
Standing at the tabernacle door, as we know
And all the people rose and worshiped
Each man in his tent door, it is so

So the Lord spoke to Moses face to face
As a man speaks to his friend, there in that place

And he would return to the camp
But his servant Joshua the son of Nun, a young man as we know
Did not depart from the tabernacle
He stayed at the tent, even so

Lord God, You are there still
Waiting for Your people to come to You
For each and every one that will
You have promised them something new

No longer will we be estranged and living apart
No longer will we be far from Your place
Instead ahead will be a brand new start
When we come to fellowship with you face to face

Thank You, O God, for Jesus who makes all things new
Thank You for our Lord who is ever faithful and true

Hallelujah and Amen…

Exodus 32:25-35 (The Golden Calf – The Testing of the Sons of Levi)

Exodus 32:25-35
The Golden Calf – The Testing of the Sons of Levi

Three sets of testing are found in Exodus 32. The first was Aaron’s testing. He did poorly. The next was Moses’ testing. He did well. The final note of testing is that of the sons of Levi. What is unknown is how many of them participated in Aaron’s failure at first. The Bible is silent on this.

However, what is known is how they responded to their testing when confronted with the need to stand up and act on behalf of the Lord. They will do well. In Matthew 21, Jesus gave us this parable –

“But what do you think? A man had two sons, and he came to the first and said, ‘Son, go, work today in my vineyard.’ 29 He answered and said, ‘I will not,’ but afterward he regretted it and went. 30 Then he came to the second and said likewise. And he answered and said, ‘I go, sir,’ but he did not go. 31 Which of the two did the will of his father?”
They said to Him, “The first.” Matthew 21:28-31

A shadow of this thought is seen in today’s verses. Regardless of what the sons of Levi did at first, they did what was right in the end. They were willing to stop and evaluate the situation around them and then go about doing that which was right to do.

Because of their actions in today’s passage, they will be bestowed an honor which singled them out as a special tribe, dedicated to the Lord throughout all their generations. In the Song of Moses, their deeds at this time were remembered –

Text Verse: “And of Levi he said:
Let Your Thummim and Your Urim be with Your holy one,
Whom You tested at Massah,
And with whom You contended at the waters of Meribah,
Who says of his father and mother,
‘I have not seen them’;
Nor did he acknowledge his brothers,
Or know his own children;
For they have observed Your word
And kept Your covenant.’” Deuteronomy 33:8, 9

Each one of us is bound to falter in our daily lives at one time or another. But this doesn’t mean that all is lost. What we do with ourselves after our initial failings often overshadows what we initially messed up. This is true in family matters, in our work environment, and in our walk as Christians before the Lord as well.

Sometimes our failings may even highlight our successes. And so we shouldn’t be too hard on ourselves, unless our failings remain failures. If not, then let us use the lessons we learn to continuously improve ourselves and to do that which is morally right as we walk in the presence of the Lord each day.

The lesson of the golden calf is one which still hangs over Israel to this day. A friend of mine was reading this very passage at the same time that I was typing these sermons. She said, “How could they have done this after all the Lord had done for them; after all they had seen and experienced.”

My answer was that Israel is just a microcosm of the world at large. We have seen God’s hand do the miraculous both in His word and in our lives. We have seen the ancient promises fulfilled, even during our lifetime, and yet we fail just as Israel failed. But we can overcome our failures if we look to the Lord and to His honor in our lives. This is a lesson which is to be found in His superior word. And so let’s turn to that precious word once again and… May God speak to us through His word today and may His glorious name ever be praised.

I. The Testing of the Sons of Levi (verses 25-29)

25 Now when Moses saw that the people were unrestrained (for Aaron had not restrained them, to their shame among their enemies),

The word for “unrestrained” which is found twice in this verse is para. It is from an unused root meaning “to loosen.” One can get the mental picture that the people were simply loosed, like wild oxen, to dance about in a completely unrestrained manner. They were running amok and out of control.

This word is found only 16 times and 6 of them, more than any other book in the Bible, are found in the Proverbs. One proverb which fits what occurs here at Sinai is found in Proverbs 29 –

“Where there is no revelation, the people cast off restraint;
But happy is he who keeps the law.” Proverbs 9:18

Solomon may have been reading this account in Exodus and contemplating what occurred here when he wrote this particular proverb. This word is variously translated here. Other versions say running wild, out of control, broken loose, were naked, were stripped, and unbridled.

Those translations which say “stripped” or “naked” may be taken literally, as if the people had actually torn off their clothes and committed outright indecency, or it may be taken figuratively in that they left themselves naked and exposed. If so, then their enemies would have the ability to overtake and destroy them. This is most likely the true sense as the same word is used that way in 2 Chronicles 28 –

“For the LORD brought Judah low because of Ahaz king of Israel, for he had made Judah naked and had completely rebelled against the LORD.” 2 Chronicles 28:19, 20

Sounds like our president today! Judah’s morals degraded so greatly that they became naked and exposed to their enemies. Such is the pattern of rebellion against God. We have failed to learn from the past, and we now face the same state of moral decline and nakedness.

As seen in the last passage where Joshua was noted, the enemies of God, represented by Amalek, would be the most likely to take advantage of this naked state. Whether it was the spirit of Amalek within the camp, or the actual group of Amelekites who could view the open and exposed flanks of Israel, the people had left themselves in a state which was unacceptable.

The word translated as “to their shame” is a verb, shimtsah. It is only found here in the Bible, and it means scornful whispering (of hostile spectators), and thus “shame.” It is the same as a rare noun, shemets, meaning “to whisper.”

The idea is that God’s people had so degraded themselves that their enemies had opportunity to scornfully whisper about them. In turn, their actions would then reflect on the Lord. To bring shame upon self is to bring shame upon one’s God. This is evident every time a pastor, preacher, priest, or pope acts in a disgraceful manner. The God they profess is maligned along with them.

But this is not limited to clergy alone. Anyone who claims to be a follower of the Lord will bring disgrace upon Him when they act in an unrestrained manner. We need to remember always that our actions don’t just harm us. Family, friends, congregations, and above all the name of our God, all are affected by our immoral behavior.

26 then Moses stood in the entrance of the camp,

In the Bible, the shaar or “gate” of a camp, town, or city, was the place of judgment. It is where the elders would congregate to decide matters and to determine laws and their enforcement. This camp, despite being just that – a camp – was set up as a city, with a makeshift barrier around it and points of access. It is certain that there were at least two, and maybe several, points of access from the wording of the next verse.

This was probably the principle gate where Moses now stood, maybe the camp was aligned to face Sinai. Whatever the case, a judgment was now to be rendered at the place of judgment.

26 (con’t) and said, “Whoever is on the Lord’s side—come to me!”

The Hebrew basically says, “Who for Yehovah? And come to me!” In verse 5, upon seeing the golden calf, Aaron had said, “Tomorrow is a feast to the Lord.” He thus equated the golden calf with the Lord, and the people had acknowledged it as such.

Now what is happening is that a divide is being set. Those in the camp who were feasting to the calf had set up their standard of who the Lord was to them. Moses now sets up the unseen Lord in opposition to them. By standing in the gate of the camp, he was calling out for those who were faithful to come outside the camp as an act of declaring themselves sanctified for the service of the Lord. This is similar to the thought of Hebrews 13 –

“Therefore Jesus also, that He might sanctify the people with His own blood, suffered outside the gate. 13 Therefore let us go forth to Him, outside the camp, bearing His reproach.” Hebrews 13:12, 13

Were there any in the camp who were willing to sanctify themselves to the Lord by acknowledging that He was not reflected in the idol, but rather in the commandments which had preceded the idol? This is what he calls out for.

26 (con’t) And all the sons of Levi gathered themselves together to him.

As was seen in verse 3, and at many other times throughout Scripture, not every “every” means every and not all “all’s” mean all. In the case of “all the sons of Levi,” it is speaking of a greater portion of them. It can be inferred from verse 27, that there were Levites who didn’t come to the side of the Lord.

However, those who did probably came first out of loyalty to Moses, and thus the brotherhood of the tribe itself. This deep-seated loyalty can be traced all the way back to the account of Genesis 34 where Simeon and Levi both defended the honor of the family against the rape of their sister Dinah.

Moses, calling for the honor of the Lord, then stirred up that same loyalty in his brothers who quickly came to his side. Whether any or all of them had been a part of the feast is not the consideration here. What is being considered is their willingness to turn from the crowd and to the honor of the Lord. As one turned to Moses, another turned, and then another. Eventually, a great portion of Levi had come to his side.

27 And he said to them, “Thus says the Lord God of Israel:

Moses is speaking as the prophet of God. There is no indication in Scripture that the Lord told him to say this, with the exception of this verse itself. And yet, the silence concerning any condemnation of what follows, and even the approval of it, shows that Moses was speaking as the Lord’s prophet. And therefore, what transpires is not to be considered inappropriate, rash, or unauthorized.

27 (con’t) ‘Let every man put his sword on his side,

The word translated here as “side” is yarek, and it properly means “thigh.” The swords used would be thigh swords which were small and easily maneuvered in close-quarter fights.

27 (con’t) and go in and out from entrance to entrance throughout the camp,

Here we see that the camp was set up with multiple entrances. For a tent type of city, it would have been a rather well defended encampment, and it would have had points where the people could quickly go in and out if enemies came to attack them. The verses here show discipline and contemplative arrangement by the leader, meaning Moses.

However, at this time, these gates would not be a place of safety and life for those inside, but rather they would become the place where death came upon them through full and unmerciful force.

27 (con’t) and let every man kill his brother, every man his companion, and every man his neighbor.’”

The words here are given as an all-encompassing command. Regardless of how a person was known to one of the Levites, whether through blood relation, close friendship, or nearness as a neighbor, they were to kill and not hold back.

As they are told to go throughout the camp, the idea surely does not mean indiscriminate killing, but rather those who had not stopped their reveling at the return of Moses. Any continued offender would be subject to death. This is certain because out of a group of perhaps two million people, only a small fraction will actually die.

The obvious purpose of this command is to stay the wrath of the Lord against a greater destruction of life. This is seen at other times in the Bible. The zeal for the Lord, and the taking of action in regards to His wrath, is what saves the people from greater wrath. Each of these precepts is seen again in Numbers 25 –

“Now Israel remained in Acacia Grove, and the people began to commit harlotry with the women of Moab. They invited the people to the sacrifices of their gods, and the people ate and bowed down to their gods. So Israel was joined to Baal of Peor, and the anger of the Lord was aroused against Israel.
Then the Lord said to Moses, ‘Take all the leaders of the people and hang the offenders before the Lord, out in the sun, that the fierce anger of the Lord may turn away from Israel.’
So Moses said to the judges of Israel, ‘Every one of you kill his men who were joined to Baal of Peor.’
And indeed, one of the children of Israel came and presented to his brethren a Midianite woman in the sight of Moses and in the sight of all the congregation of the children of Israel, who were weeping at the door of the tabernacle of meeting. Now when Phinehas the son of Eleazar, the son of Aaron the priest, saw it, he rose from among the congregation and took a javelin in his hand; and he went after the man of Israel into the tent and thrust both of them through, the man of Israel, and the woman through her body. So the plague was stopped among the children of Israel. And those who died in the plague were twenty-four thousand.” Numbers 25:1-9

28 So the sons of Levi did according to the word of Moses.

Of this, Matthew Henry states –

“Those are marked for ruin who persist in sin: those who in the morning were shouting and dancing, before night were dying. Such sudden changes do the judgments of the Lord sometimes make with sinners that are secure and jovial in their sin.” Matthew Henry

What is important to understand here is that a type of amnesty was offered to all people with the words of verse 26. When Moses called out, “Whoever is on the Lord’s side—come to me!” it meant that those who came to him had been obedient, and for any who had not, their guilt remained. The only people who were actually not guilty were these faithful Levites. All others were rendered guilty by association, if nothing else.

28 (con’t) And about three thousand men of the people fell that day.

The number to die in comparison to the number in the camp is exceedingly small. Though all bore the guilt implicitly, only 3000 died. However, it was a sufficient amount to demonstrate that the Levites had been faithful to the task to which they had been called.

For whatever reason, the Latin Vulgate of this verse reads 23,000 people were killed, that along with another Catholic version, the Douay-Rheims both state this without any textual support. They are in error and need a red letter correction penned in here.

29 Then Moses said, “Consecrate yourselves today to the Lord,

The words here, v’yomer moshe milu yedkem hayom l’Yehovah literally say, “and said Moses fill your hands today to Yehovah.” The idea of filling the hand brings to mind that of consecration, just as when the priests would fill their hands with the ordination sacrifices, thus consecrating themselves to the Lord.

The deed of the Levites was considered as such a filling of the hand. They had filled their hand with the sword of the Lord, and they had then used that sword to avenge the honor of the Lord. Thus their actions were considered as acts of consecration. It is exactly what was seen in the passage from Numbers concerning Phineas. After his noble deed, this is recorded –

“Then the Lord spoke to Moses, saying: 11 ‘Phinehas the son of Eleazar, the son of Aaron the priest, has turned back My wrath from the children of Israel, because he was zealous with My zeal among them, so that I did not consume the children of Israel in My zeal. 12 Therefore say, ‘Behold, I give to him My covenant of peace; 13 and it shall be to him and his descendants after him a covenant of an everlasting priesthood, because he was zealous for his God, and made atonement for the children of Israel.’”

The destruction of the enemies of the Lord is called a sacrifice elsewhere in Scripture, thus, their deed is considered as if a sacrifice which fills the hand. In such a sacrifice, there is something which is then returned upon the person…

29 (con’t) that He may bestow on you a blessing this day,

The opposite of a curse is a blessing. The blessing to be bestowed upon Levi for their zeal will be the distinction of a people who are set apart to serve the priests in Israel. What has occurred here is the reversal of a curse. As I said earlier, Simeon and Levi had defended the honor of the family when their sister Dinah had been raped. However, Jacob saw this as a reason to curse their zeal. On his deathbed, he pronounced these words over them –

“Simeon and Levi are brothers;
Instruments of cruelty are in their dwelling place.
Let not my soul enter their council;
Let not my honor be united to their assembly;
For in their anger they slew a man,
And in their self-will they hamstrung an ox.
Cursed be their anger, for it is fierce;
And their wrath, for it is cruel!
I will divide them in Jacob
And scatter them in Israel.” Genesis 49:5-7

In Levi’s zeal, he had violated the precepts of truth and justice in regards to a false connection to obtaining a blood relationship through the covenant of circumcision. Now the descendants of Levi had restored truth and justice, and had upheld the covenant at Sinai by avenging the Lord against their own blood relationships. Thus, their curse had been changed into a blessing.

Both Simeon and Levi would still be divided in Jacob and scattered in Israel, but for the Levites it would be in a positive sense. Whereas Simeon would scatter into obscurity in Judah, Levi would continue to be held in high honor in Israel. Even to this day, the name of Levi remains well-known. Nobody wears Simeon blue jeans, do they? But Levi’s are the standard.

29 (con’t) for every man has opposed his son and his brother.”

Of these words, the Geneva Bible says –

“In revenging God’s glory we must have no partiality to person, but lay aside all carnal affection.” Geneva

This tenet remains unchanged. To what point will you be willing to stand for the honor of the Lord? What will you do if your son or daughter tells you they are a homosexual? What will you do if your brother joins a cult? When will you say, “I’m going to ignore this part of the Bible because it conflicts with my interpersonal relations?” Be prepared now to stand and defend the honor of the Lord – at any and all costs.

How high will you hold up the honor of the Lord?
To what level will you go to defend it before another?
How precious to you is His sacred word?
Will you stand against your friend, or even against your brother?

How sacred is to you the faith that you profess
And how willing are you to stand upon every precept
What if your life is threatened? Will you still confess?
Or in your resolve will the Lord faltering detect?

Be steadfast in your proclamation
Be willing to stand for the Lord before any and all
Be one of the greats in your generation
When the times of testing come, be sure not to hesitate or stall

II. Accursed from Christ (verses 30-33)

30 Now it came to pass on the next day that Moses said to the people, “You have committed a great sin.

After the slaying of the people by Levi, even on the next day, Moses spoke to the people concerning what had occurred. His words, “You have committed a great sin” follow on from what was said in Exodus 20, at the time of the giving of the law. At that time, there was the great display of thunderings, flashes, the blast of the trumpet, and smoke. The people then asked that the Lord would no longer speak to them lest they die. Moses’ response was –

“Do not fear; for God has come to test you, and that His fear may be before you, so that you may not sin.” Exodus 20:20

They had forgotten this, and they had, in fact, committed a great sin, directly against the laws found in the Ten Commandments. The word “You” is emphatic. “You people have committed a great sin.” Because of this, Moses’ next words are given…

30 (con’t) So now I will go up to the Lord; perhaps I can make atonement for your sin.”

Of these words, several scholars state pretty much what Charles Ellicott says –

“When Moses had, on first hearing of God’s intention to destroy the people, interceded for them (Exodus 32:11-13), his prayers had received no direct answer—he had been left in doubt whether they were granted or no. Having now put an end to the offence, and to some extent punished it, he is bent on renewing his supplications, and obtaining a favourable reply.”

This is incorrect. Verse 14 shows that the Lord relented against destroying all of the people during his testing of Moses. Therefore, Moses’ ascent to the Lord now is not one of seeking His wrath to be stayed. It is a different level of restoration which he seeks.

The people have nullified the covenant through their deeds. They are, in essence, cut off from being the people of the Lord. This is what Moses is looking to restore. When Peter betrayed Christ, he received pardon for that betrayal in the death of Christ. However, he was not restored to his position as an apostle until later, on the shores of the sea of Galilee.

Israel has received general pardon from God for their idolatry; they will not be destroyed. However, their sin has separated them from their God as to being counted as the people of the Lord; His representative nation. This is the atonement which Moses will seek. He will now act as the mediatorial priest for Israel.

It is the greatest such act recorded of him. In the future, with the construction of the tabernacle and the service of the law, this duty will be conducted by Aaron and his descendants after him. That they have lost their status as the Lord’s people is now seen in the words of the next verse…

31 Then Moses returned to the Lord and said, “Oh, these people have committed a great sin, and have made for themselves a god of gold!

After ascending the mountain once again to seek the Lord, Moses begins his petition with the word an-na. It is a contraction of two other words, ahava, meaning “love,” and na, meaning “please.” In essence, “I beg of you.”

After this, he does not say, “Your people” as he did in verse 11. He says “these people.” They have distanced themselves from the Lord by the worship of a false god which they called “the Lord.” It has removed from them the position which they had been accepted to in the ratification of the covenant in Exodus 24.

As a further stress, Moses says that the people have made elohe zahav, “gods of gold.” The plural is given for the singular to show the utterly contemptible nature of what had occurred. It is comparable to us saying, “He is engaged in sins of the flesh” when speaking of any illicit behavior a person may have been caught in.

Moses has laid bare the situation, and now seeks for a sign of mercy and restoration concerning what has transpired…

32 Yet now, if You will forgive their sin—

This phrase is what is known as an aposiopesis. It is the sudden cutting off a speech to make a point. One must insert a thought, guessing what the rest of the phrase should be. Normally the continuation is obvious. In this case, it would be something like, “If you will forgive their sin, then great…” However, those words are left off in order to make the contrasting statement more poignant…

32 (con’t) but if not, I pray, blot me out of Your book which You have written.”

The words here are often taken to unintended extremes, even to the point of saying that people can lose their salvation and that this is a proof of it. This is not what this is speaking of, and the context here has nothing to do with the context of salvation after the cross of Christ.

The “book which you have written” is the book of the living. The idea is similar to that of a registry of people in any city. There are those who are alive and who are thus accounted on those roles for all of the purposes of the living. These can include school, taxes, being drafted – whatever.

In the case of Israel, there was a book of the living for those who are a part of the covenant people. This was agreed to in Exodus 24. The people were inscribed in the book as subjects of the kingdom. It could even be that it was compiled during Moses’ 40 days on the mountain while receiving the details of the previous chapters.

To not have their sins forgiven means that they would be blotted out of that book. It would then mean that they would have no inheritance in the land of Canaan to which they were headed. This is what Moses has in view as he petitions the Lord.

Moses has tied himself to his people. They are either the people of the Lord, or he desires to be counted among them when they are no longer His people. He is expressing his highest desire that they remain the people of the Lord, despite having broken the covenant. John Lange details this –

“He would rather be blotted, with the people, out of the book of life, of theocratic citizenship, than without the people to stand in the book alone. As mediating priest he has come as far as to the thought of going to destruction with the people, but not for them.” John Lange

There are quite a few verses in Scripture which point to this idea of inclusion in the theocratic citizenship of the Lord. Two of them will help explain what is going on –

“Let them be blotted out of the book of the living,
And not be written with the righteous.” Psalm 69:28

“And it shall come to pass that he who is left in Zion and remains in Jerusalem will be called holy—everyone who is recorded among the living in Jerusalem.” Isaiah 4:3

This is an earthly kingdom leading to the Messiah. In Christ’s coming, the kingdom moves into a new phase where the Mediator will not be just willing to go to destruction with the people, but for them. In His act, the true book of life is seen and realized. When one puts their faith in Christ, receiving Him as Savior, they become a part of His eternal theocratic rule. Revelation says –

“He who overcomes shall be clothed in white garments, and I will not blot out his name from the Book of Life; but I will confess his name before My Father and before His angels.” Revelation 3:5

Paul shows us the state of those who have rejected this spiritual kingdom of Christ. It is a state of being accursed and cut off from God. In his love for his people, we find words reminiscent of those of Moses –

“I tell the truth in Christ, I am not lying, my conscience also bearing me witness in the Holy Spirit, that I have great sorrow and continual grief in my heart. For I could wish that I myself were accursed from Christ for my brethren, my countrymen according to the flesh, who are Israelites, to whom pertain the adoption, the glory, the covenants, the giving of the law, the service of God, and the promises; of whom are the fathers and from whom, according to the flesh, Christ came, who is over all, the eternally blessed God. Amen.” Romans 9:1-5

In Moses, there is a petition for “grace or judgment.” In Christ, there is the realization of, “Through judgment the highest grace” (Lange). Paul could not seek the first for his people collectively, and so they are obligated to seek the latter individually.

Gods of gold fashioned with our hands
We pray for them to save, but they do not hear
Gods of gold, it seems no one understands
Instead of life and peace, they bring only death and fear

Lord, forgive our hearts and turn us back to You
Give us wisdom to seek out that which is right
Help us to be ever faithful and true
And to pursue only Jesus with all of our might

Let our names be inscribed forever in Your book
Through Christ’s shed blood alone do we overcome
Towards heaven’s riches forever shall we look
To no more gods of gold will our hearts succumb

III. Promises and Punishment (verses 33-35)

33 And the Lord said to Moses, “Whoever has sinned against Me, I will blot him out of My book.

Cambridge states, “Jehovah replies that He will blot out of His book not the righteous, but those only who have sinned against Him.” However, there is the truth recorded later in Romans that “all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” (3:23) Further, Romans says, “there is none righteous, no, not one” (3:10).

In Ezekiel 18, it twice says, “The soul who sins shall die.” It is certain that Moses sinned, and Moses died. Further, Moses could not die for the sins of others. The Bible makes it known that such a vicarious punishment is unacceptable.

And yet, we as Christians can rightly make the assumption that though Moses died, he is also considered a righteous saint, along with many others of the Old Testament. And so how can we reconcile these two contrasting thoughts – that of being blotted out if a soul has sinned against the Lord, and that of being considered righteous before the Lord?

The answer, as always, comes down to faith. Faith in God’s provision, which is Christ, is what brings a person to the Throne of God. This is why Hebrews 11 highlights the saints of old and proclaims that they were deemed acceptable to God. It was by faith in what lie ahead.

Only in Christ is there found One who never sinned. And yet He died. However, it was not for His sins, but for the sins of others. Only in Christ is a vicarious punishment deemed acceptable. The Bible shows us such marvelous truths!

In the immediate context though, Moses is being told that the one who has sinned against the Lord will be blotted out of the book. This is referring to the sin of the golden calf and the book of the theocratic rule which is to be realized in the land of Canaan.

Those who failed to live by faith, and instead trusted in the work of their hands, would not receive the promised inheritance. This is seen in the words of the next verse…

34 Now therefore, go, lead the people to the place of which I have spoken to you.

It is the promised inheritance, the land of Canaan, which is being dealt with – life in Canaan under the theocratic rule of the Lord. Moses is instructed to lead the people there in fulfillment of the promise which was made.

34 (con’t) Behold, My Angel shall go before you.

There are two views on what these words mean. Is “the Angel” referred to here a created being, or is it referring to the Angel of the Lord who is Christ?

These words are very similar to Exodus 23:20 which was speaking of the Lord. However, based on the words of the next chapter, most scholars see this angel here is not the Lord, but a created angel. In the next chapter, it will say –

Go up to a land flowing with milk and honey; for I will not go up in your midst, lest I consume you on the way, for you are a stiff-necked people.” Exodus 33:3

For this reason, it seems that this is not the Angel of the Lord, but a created angel. However, the words “in your midst” are the antithesis of the words of Exodus 33:7 –

“Moses took his tent and pitched it outside the camp, far from the camp, and called it the tabernacle of meeting. And it came to pass that everyone who sought the Lord went out to the tabernacle of meeting which was outside the camp.”

The Lord was no longer in the midst of the congregation, but a far way off. Thus, there is no reason to assume that this verse is not still the Angel of the Lord, meaning Christ. This is further supported by the term malaki or “My Angel,” rather than merely malak, or “an angel.” Only the “angel” of verse 33:2 is not speaking of the Angel of the Lord. This appears to be borne out in the chiasm which spans these chapters.

34 (con’t) Nevertheless, in the day when I visit for punishment, I will visit punishment upon them for their sin.”

The words here in Hebrew read, “when I visit, then I will visit on them their sin.” The word is paqad. It comes from a root which means to visit, either with friendly or hostile intent. In the case of this visitation, it will be with intent which is hostile. Those who sinned and were spared by the sword will still not find relief.

*35 So the Lord plagued the people because of what they did with the calf which Aaron made.

The chapter ends with these sobering words. The Lord promised to visit the people with punishment and these words confirm that this took place. The word used here means to strike. It can be in a plague or some other way. Nothing more is said about what occurred in their being stricken. Nor is there any note of those that repented and mourned over what they had done.

Instead, the verse is left up to the divine discretion of the Lord and to His righteous justice to decide what occurred with each person who sinned. The congregation was spared, but the soul that sinned was brought into judgment. What is to be considered of particular note is the contrast between this account today and that of what occurred in Acts 2.

At Sinai, which according to Galatians 4 symbolizes the temple in Jerusalem, the law was received and it was written on tablets of stone. Those tablets were given to Moses but were broken at the base of the mountain because of the people’s turning from the Lord to a false God. After this, 3000 people died because of their sin. In Acts 2, we read this –

“And with many other words he testified and exhorted them, saying, ‘Be saved from this perverse generation.’ 41 Then those who gladly received his word were baptized; and that day about three thousand souls were added to them. 42 And they continued steadfastly in the apostles’ doctrine and fellowship, in the breaking of bread, and in prayers.” Acts 2:40-42

There at the temple in Jerusalem, the word of the Lord was again given, but this time it was written on the tablets of the hearts of the people, as Paul calls the work of the Spirit in 2 Corinthians 3:3. At that time, 3000 people were saved because of their faith in Christ.

The two accounts are given to show the superiority of the fulfilled law in Christ to the giving of the law by Moses. One was written on stone and it leads to death. The other is written on the heart and it leads to life.

It was a perverse generation who followed after the golden calf, having rejected the Lord on the mountain at Sinai, and it was a perverse generation who rejected Christ and sought to seek their own righteousness apart from Him. For those 3000 who died at Sinai, they died in sin because of their deeds. For the 3000 who received Jesus in Jerusalem, they died to sin because of His deeds.

For all the rest, in both places, and for all who have come since, the truth is that the soul who sins shall die. The question for each of us is, “When the Lord comes to visit us for punishment, will it be punishment in us for the sins we have committed in this life, or will it have been in Christ for those same sins?” These are the only two options available to man.

If our sins have been judged in Christ, our names are written in the book of life and they shall never be blotted out; we have overcome. If our sins have not been dealt with through Him, then another fate awaits –

“Then I saw a great white throne and Him who sat on it, from whose face the earth and the heaven fled away. And there was found no place for them. 12 And I saw the dead, small and great, standing before God, and books were opened. And another book was opened, which is the Book of Life. And the dead were judged according to their works, by the things which were written in the books. 13 The sea gave up the dead who were in it, and Death and Hades delivered up the dead who were in them. And they were judged, each one according to his works. 14 Then Death and Hades were cast into the lake of fire. This is the second death. 15 And anyone not found written in the Book of Life was cast into the lake of fire.” Revelation 20:11-15

Of this passage today, Matthew Henry says –

“But having that mind which was in Christ, he was willing to lay down his life in the most painful manner, if he might thereby preserve the people. Moses could not wholly turn away the wrath of God; which shows that the law of Moses was not able to reconcile men to God, and to perfect our peace with him. In Christ alone, God so pardons sin as to remember it no more.” Matthew Henry

Isn’t that the most marvelous news. In Christ, God so pardons sin as to remember it no more! The world doesn’t even want to hear about sin. But it is a reality which cannot be denied when considering the holiness of God.

Today many large churches are full of worshippers quite often because the church is geared towards the carnal man. There are promises of health, wealth, and prosperity, but there is no heart for the grace of God which frees us from sin. The sin is passed over, not dealt with.

It is the rare church which is both large and filled with worshippers who praise God not for what He can give us in this life, but what He has given us for eternal life. Sin is not a popular subject, but it is one of the defining subjects of Scripture. If God simply wanted to plop down prosperity upon our heads, He would have skipped over the brutal death of Christ. But He didn’t.

Today, if you are wanting a true and right relationship with Christ, come to the foot of the cross and call out your need for the Savior. After that all else will fall into its proper place. If you have never come to do this, please make today the day…

Closing Verse: “For when we were still without strength, in due time Christ died for the ungodly. For scarcely for a righteous man will one die; yet perhaps for a good man someone would even dare to die. But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” Romans 5:6-8

Next Week: Exodus 33:1-11 As you all listen, none of you should be bored (Everyone Who Sought the Lord) (92nd Exodus Sermon)

The Lord has you exactly where He wants you. He has a good plan and purpose for you. Even if a deep ocean lies ahead of You, He can part the waters and lead you through it on dry ground. So follow Him and trust Him and He will do marvelous things for you and through you.

The Testing of the Sons of Levi

Now when Moses saw that the people were unrestrained
For Aaron had not restrained them, to their shame among their enemies
Then Moses stood in the entrance of the camp
And said, “Whoever is on the Lord’s side—come to me. Do, please

And all the sons of Levi gathered themselves together to him
And he said to them

Thus says the Lord God of Israel:
“Let every man put his sword on his side
And go in and out from entrance to entrance, as well
Throughout the camp, let these words be applied

And let every man kill his brother
Every man his companion, and every man his neighbor

So the sons of Levi did according to as Moses did say
And about three thousand men of the people fell that day

Then Moses said, yes he did say
“Consecrate yourselves today to the Lord
That He may bestow on you a blessing this day
For every man has opposed his son and his brother according to His word

Now it came to pass on the next day
That Moses to the people said
“You have committed a great sin, in your wicked way
So now I will go up to the Lord instead

Perhaps I can make atonement for your sin
Otherwise you are surely done in

Then Moses returned to the Lord and said
“Oh, these people have committed a great sin
And have made for themselves a god of gold!
Surely your patience is wearing thin

Yet now, if You will forgive their sin – but if not, I pray
Blot me out of Your book which You have written, blot me out today

And the Lord said to Moses, “Whoever has sinned against Me
I will blot him out of My book, this is how it shall be

Now therefore, go, lead the people to the place
Of which I have spoken to you
Behold, My Angel shall go before your face

Nevertheless, in the day when I visit for punishment
I will visit punishment upon them for their sin, the debt shall be paid
So the Lord plagued the people because of what they did
With the calf which Aaron made

Here we are Lord, really no different than Israel
We are unrestrained in in our lives each and every day
It is a sad, sad story to tell
But this is humanity’s normal, confused way

Help us to be bold, Lord, when facing sin
To stand against it and to be firm in defending Your glory
While the world continues to spiral its way in
Help us to proclaim to all the wondrous gospel story

For it alone has the power, the lost soul to save
For it alone tells of the precious life You gave

Thank You, O God, for this perfect gift which You have bestowed upon us
Thank You, O God, for our Savior, our Lord, our precious Jesus

Hallelujah and Amen…





Exodus 32:1-10 (The Golden Calf – The Testing of Aaron)

Exodus 32:1-10
The Golden Calf – The Testing of Aaron

Starting with verse 1 of this chapter, a chiasm begins which will span every verse until Exodus 34:17 – 8 sermons. However, it is a rather unique chiasm because it not only conveys individual thoughts in individual verses, but it also contains examples which comprise entire passages. It is truly a marvel of wisdom and beauty which eyes had not rested upon until the 31st of August 2011.

When it came to light, I was so very excited. Each time a chiasm is revealed, it sheds new light on what God is thinking and what He wants us to know. I have printed off copies for you so that you can keep them in your Bible and follow along with it as we go through these next three chapters. Let’s review it now…


As you can see, the center of the chiasm is verse 33:15 – “If Your Presence does not go with us, do not bring us up from here.” The people were prone to idolatry and they were stiff-necked in their demeanor, but Moses knew that unless the presence of the Lord went with them there would be no true way of knowing that they had received His grace.

In type and picture, the Presence of the Lord being with Israel is realized in the giving of the Holy Spirit to those in the church. He is the seal and the guarantee of God’s presence in our lives. Sometimes we may feel He is distant or has left us. But this is more often than not because we have fallen back into some type of sin, highlighted by the idolatry of Israel. That thought goes well with our text verse of the day…

Text Verse: “Moreover, brethren, I do not want you to be unaware that all our fathers were under the cloud, all passed through the sea, all were baptized into Moses in the cloud and in the sea, all ate the same spiritual food, and all drank the same spiritual drink. For they drank of that spiritual Rock that followed them, and that Rock was Christ. But with most of them God was not well pleased, for their bodies were scattered in the wilderness.” 1 Corinthians 10:1-5

Let us remember that the Lord is with us, and that we should act in accord with that knowledge at all times. Let us be pleasing to God and stand firm on the commands, exhortations, and prohibitions which are given to us for right living. Such is what we are told to do in His superior word. And so let’s turn to that precious word once again and… May God speak to us through His word today and may His glorious name ever be praised.

I. This is Your God, O Israel (verses 1-4)

For the sake of context, we need to remember where we are in the history of the book of Exodus. Using Moses as their leader, the Lord had brought Israel out of their bondage in Egypt. On the way to Sinai, and even at the foot of Sinai, He had shown them great and marvelous proofs of His abilities to care for them, as well as His affections directed towards them.

At Sinai, He had come down in their presence and verbally pronounced to them the Ten Commandments. After that, because of the terror of the meeting, they had asked that the Lord not speak to them. Therefore, towards the end of chapter 20, Moses ascended Sinai and received the Book of the Covenant. This went all the way through chapter 23.

After receiving the Book of the Covenant, Moses went back down, and the covenant with the people was cut. The agreement was made, and the people committed themselves to obedience. This was followed by the covenant meal between the Lord and the leaders of Israel.

After this, towards the end of chapter 24, Moses and Joshua ascended Sinai again where Moses would be presented with the details for the construction of the sanctuary and all of its furniture, the ordination of the priests, the details for the sacrifices and offerings, and the law of the Sabbath. At the end of chapter 31, the very last thing that was recorded was –

“And when He had made an end of speaking with him on Mount Sinai, He gave Moses two tablets of the Testimony, tablets of stone, written with the finger of God.” Exodus 31:18

The two tablets of the Testimony, written by the finger of God which contained the Ten Commandments, was handed to Moses. The words which had been uttered at the beginning of chapter 20 by the Lord, were written down by Him and presented to the leader of the people. This then is the context of where we are now.

Now when the people saw that Moses delayed coming down from the mountain,

The words ha’am or “the people” are certainly used in a general sense. In 1 Corinthians 10, Paul says that “some” of the people were involved in the depravity of the idolatry to be described here. Regardless of this though, these things will normally start with a few and eventually permeate the entire body.

Whether few or many then, they are regarded as a single group. They had been brought out of Egypt and had been promised to be brought back into the land of their forefathers. But after an extended period of sitting idle, they are restive and unable to endure any more delay.

The word used concerning Moses which is translated here as “delay” is bosh. It is a verb which means “ashamed,” but the primary meaning is “to fall into disgrace, normally through failure, either of self or of an object of trust” (HAW). The word has only been used once so far and it gives us a clue as to the entire flavor of the coming account. It was first seen in Genesis 2:25 –

“And they were both naked, the man and his wife, and were not ashamed.”

In Eden, there was no shame; no disgrace. There was peace between God and man. But that quickly changed when sin entered the picture. It is sin which causes shame and brings about disgrace. The people imply that Moses has let them down, just as God was disappointed in Adam. A classic use of this word, and one which resembles the events which lie ahead, comes from Isaiah 44:9 –

“Those who make an image, all of them are useless,
And their precious things shall not profit;
They are their own witnesses;
They neither see nor know, that they may be ashamed.”  Isaiah 44:9

Due to the delay, it seemed that Moses has failed and fallen into disgrace. Either he had died in the fiery inferno on the mountain, or he had packed up and left without letting the people know, or some other unknown event had occurred. Whatever their thoughts about Moses were, it included the idea that he had fallen into disgrace.

Thus the irony of what is about to occur centers on this word, given to us in the first sentence of the account. Rather than Moses, it is the people who will fall into disgrace. Moses, or “He who draws out” will have to draw them out of the wrath of God which will be directed towards them.

We were told in Exodus 24 that Moses was on the mountain for forty days and forty nights. This means that what we are seeing here occurs somewhere around five weeks after his ascent. We know this because the details of what we will see took at least a few days, or maybe even a week, to transpire.

The Lord selected this period of forty days for a reason. According to Bullinger the biblical meaning of forty is –

“Forty has long been universally recognized as an important number, both on account of the frequency of its occurrence, and the uniformity of its association with a period of probation, trial, and chastisement—(not judgment, like the number 9, which stands in connection with the punishment of enemies, but the chastisement of sons, and of a covenant people). It is the product of 5 and 8, and points to the action of grace (5), leading to and ending in revival and renewal (8). This is certainly the case where forty relates to a period of evident probation.”

The forty days are rightly defined by him as a time of evident probation. The people had been given the law and now they were being tested with that law without their chief leader there to supervise them. How would Aaron fare as their designated representative? How would they fare?

There are eight such great forty day periods recorded in Scripture. One of them corresponds to this period in a marvelous way. Israel was given these forty days of testing and they are now shown to have failed. Jesus was given forty days of testing and He prevailed.

1 (con’t) the people gathered together to Aaron,

The Hebrew reads, v’yiqahel ha’am al aharon – “And assembled the people against Aaron.” Aaron and Hur were appointed as the leaders during Moses’ absence. Being the prominent leader, the people have come against him in a forceful way. It is what we could consider the possible beginning of a mob scene.

1 (con’t) and said to him, “Come,

The word is qum. It means to arise. They are tired of waiting and they are adamant that Aaron now arise and take action. And so they demand that he get up and act.

1 (con’t) make us gods that shall go before us;

The word for “gods” here is elohim. It can mean either “god” singular or “gods” plural. Different translations say one or the other. However, in this verse the word for “shall go” is yeleku. It is in the plural, and therefore they are demanding visible gods to lead them. In these words then, multiple sins are seen.

The first is a violation of the first commandment, “You shall have no other gods before Me.” The second is a violation of the second, “You shall not make for yourself a carved image.” They have also devolved from monotheism to polytheism. Regardless of what Aaron actually makes, they have requested “gods.”

The mentioning of the Lord handing the Ten Commandments to Moses after his long discourse on the mountain is not without significance then. There are several purposes for it. First, it came at the end of the directions for the sanctuary as the fulfillment of what the sanctuary anticipated.

All of the details looked forward to Christ, but without the law which Christ fulfilled, there would remain an eternal disconnect between God and man. Only when this law was placed in the Ark and covered by the Mercy Seat, could there be a sort of restoration of that fellowship which was lost in Adam.

Secondly, it was given to show us that a willful, open, and united act of disobedience against these laws had taken place. The people had forgotten the words of the covenant, but the Lord had not. They had agreed openly and publically to it, and they had openly and publically violated it.

And so thirdly, we will see the just due for violating God’s law and the mercy and grace which is granted when God’s mediator stands between the Offended and the offenders. Moses, as a type of Christ, will be seen to do just this in the verses ahead. Without his intercession, the people would have been destroyed.

1 (con’t) for as for this Moses, the man who brought us up out of the land of Egypt, we do not know what has become of him.”

The words here show double contempt. The first is upon the unnamed Lord. Instead of relying on He who had already shown Himself reliable on numerous occasions, they completely ignore Him in what they say. It is as if He isn’t even a consideration.

Instead, they turn their contempt towards the human instrument of their situation, Moses, by saying ki zeh Mosheh – “for this Moses.” The words again imply that he is a failure. “Yeah, whatever happened to that guy?” It reflects a quickly-faded gratitude for all he had done. Especially concerning their acknowledgment that he was “the man who brought us up out of the land of Egypt.”

What is even more incredible, is that they are right there at the base of Sinai. All they had to do was send someone up to see what was going on in the cloud and fire. But they were too cowardly to even do this. They were warned to not do this thing. It is an acknowledgment that they knew, very well, that the Lord was there, but instead of coming to face Him, they would stay below and disgrace Him.

And yet even more, they continued to receive their daily portion of manna and their stream of water from the rock. Exodus 16:35 tells us that the manna continued unabated for forty years. Joshua 5:12 tells us that the manna finally ceased only when they had eaten of the produce of Canaan, exactly forty years later.

Instead of the unseen Lord, who would care for them by His effort, they sought a visible god which would embolden them in their own effort. And thus pride has stepped into the minds of the people. They have fallen into the same sin as their first father. And in defiance of God, they intended to work their way into the promised land apart from Him.

It is the same pattern which all false religions follow. They use what God offers to sustain them – just as Israel continued to eat the manna, but they ignore His leading and His counsel – just as Israel set out to fashion their own gods. But Matthew Henry shows us that this is not how it should be –

“While Moses was in the mount, receiving the law from God, the people made a tumultuous address to Aaron. This giddy multitude were weary of waiting for the return of Moses. Weariness in waiting betrays to many temptations. The Lord must be waited for till he comes, and waited for though he tarry.” Matthew Henry

And Aaron said to them, “Break off the golden earrings which are in the ears of your wives, your sons, and your daughters, and bring them to me.”

What Aaron should have done was to stand and defend the honor of the Lord and the keeping of His commands. He was entrusted with the care of the people after having been included in the meal with the Lord on the mountain. He had seen the Lord prove faithful time and time again, but he was also a weak and fallible person, unwilling to sacrifice himself in the defense of the Lord.

And yet, he knew that the right thing to do was to not obey the demands of the people. In hopes of deterring them from this course of action, he goes to what he supposes is their greatest source of affection by asking them to “break off the golden earrings.”

The word translated as “break” is paraq. It means to break off or tear away. It is a rather rare word, being used just ten times. Instead of saying, “take them off,” he uses this stronger word which almost gives the idea of violence. It is a challenge to the people. “All right, if you want me to do this thing, then you will have to do this other thing.”

The word for earring is nezem – a ring. It can be an earring or a nose-ring or some other type of ornament. Here, it is specifically noted as on their ears. Genesis 35:2-4 makes it apparent that the wearing of these nezem, or rings, was in and of itself a source of some type of idolatry –

“And Jacob said to his household and to all who were with him, ‘Put away the foreign gods that are among you, purify yourselves, and change your garments. Then let us arise and go up to Bethel; and I will make an altar there to God, who answered me in the day of my distress and has been with me in the way which I have gone.’ So they gave Jacob all the foreign gods which were in their hands, and the earrings which were in their ears; and Jacob hid them under the terebinth tree which was by Shechem.”

They had probably gotten these as a part of the plunder when they left Egypt. They would be considered a valuable and deserved blessing. But now Aaron was telling them that if they wanted a corporate idol, they would have to give up their personal ones.

It seems he was betting that they would not be willing to make such an exchange and would prefer their own most valuable possessions. Even more, he specifies those that belong to the wives, sons, and daughters. He probably felt that the people would be as weak towards their families as he was towards them.

The sentiment of what occurs here in defiance of the Lord, is actually something that He later sets down as a precept in His word. In Malachi 2, we read this –

“’If you will not hear,
And if you will not take it to heart,
To give glory to My name,’
Says the Lord of hosts,
‘I will send a curse upon you,
And I will curse your blessings.
Yes, I have cursed them already,
Because you do not take it to heart.’” Malachi 2:2

This in fact is what will occur with these cherished possessions of the people. The blessings of their departure from Egypt will become a curse.

So all the people broke off the golden earrings which were in their ears, and brought them to Aaron.

If it was Aaron’s intent to keep the people from their plans, he failed. It says that “all the people” did as he asked. Again, this doesn’t necessarily mean all the people of the camp, but it at least means all of the people who had conspired against the Lord. They tore away their earrings and they brought them to him.

And he received the gold from their hand, and he fashioned it with an engraving tool, and made a molded calf.

The words here are so difficult to translate that there are a multitude of possibilities as to what occurred. Some say that instead of receiving the gold and fashioning it, he received it and bound it in a bag. The same thing occurs in 2 Kings 5:23.

Some say that the order is reversed, and that he made a molded calf and then fashioned it with an engraving tool. But that is not how cast images are handled after they have been cast. What is possible is that it mentions the receiving of the gold first to show that Aaron was now compelled to fashion a god for the people.

After this, he fashioned the thing from wood with the chisel. And then next, he had the gold melted and poured out on it. The reason this is likely is that in Deuteronomy 9:21, it says this –

“Then I took your sin, the calf which you had made, and burned it with fire and crushed it and ground it very small, until it was as fine as dust; and I threw its dust into the brook that descended from the mountain.”

That it was burned seems to imply that its core was wood. Only after the wood was burned away, did he crush and grind the gold into dust. This seems likely from the words used. First, the word for “fashioned” is yatsar. So far, it has only been used three times in the Bible. The first two are seen in these words –

“And the Lord God formed man of the dust of the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living being.
The Lord God planted a garden eastward in Eden, and there He put the man whom He had formed.” Genesis 2:7, 8

After this, it was used one more time in God’s forming of the beasts of the earth. Now, it is seen in opposition to those uses. Instead of the Lord forming man, and beasts for man’s use, it is man forming a god in the form of a beast in defiance of the Lord.

The word for “engraving tool” is kheret. It is used for the first of just two times. It comes from a root meaning “to engrave,” and so it indicates a chisel or a graver. In Isaiah, it is used to indicate a pen for writing.

The word for “molten” is masekah. This is its first use in the Bible and it comes from nasak which means to pour out, as a libation, and thus to cover. Thus, if a wood form was made, it would then have been covered with the gold which had been melted and then applied over it. From this, they formed their false god, a calf.

The word for “calf” is egel. Again, it is a new word in Scripture. It is the same as the adjective agol which means circular, or round. The reason is that a calf, especially one nearly grown, will frisk around, dancing and twirling. The mental imagery of this is beautifully seen in Malachi 4:2 –

“But for you who fear my name, the Sun of Righteousness will rise with healing in his wings. And you will go free, leaping with joy like calves let out to pasture.” NLT

Why a calf is selected is not agreed upon. Many scholars tie this calf in with the calf-worship of Egypt’s god Apis, the god of strength and fertility.

Others disagree and claim that Egypt’s worship was of living animals, not images. If they wanted a god to follow, they could have just taken one of their own calves and sacrificed to it and followed it where it led. Thus they tie the calf all the way back to the Babylonian times prior to Abraham.

What is correct is that they were relying on a god of Egypt. Many ancient images of Apis have been found in Egypt. Acts 7:39, which I will cite in a moment tells us that it was to Egypt that they had turned their hearts. They had left the Lord and what He had revealed to them. This is evidenced in the next words…

4 (con’t) Then they said, “This is your god, O Israel, that brought you out of the land of Egypt!”

The Hebrew reads, eleh elohekha – “These are your gods…” It is plural. Again, people argue what the intent here is by the use of the plural. Some see it as being the many earrings of the people being combined into one form, thus the plural is used.

Others see the plural being used for the singular. In other words, the sign of the thing represents another thing. This seems likely based on Aaron’s words of the next verse. He will call for a feast to the Lord, implying that the calf stands in place of the Lord as their recognizable image of Him.

But even this is in direct violation of the Ten Commandments and it shows that regardless of Aaron’s intent, the hearts of the people had rejected the Lord. His chosen leader was long gone, and they had closed their eyes to His past mercies and their hearts to His future promises. This is attested to by Stephen in Acts 7 –

“This is he who was in the congregation in the wilderness with the Angel who spoke to him on Mount Sinai, and with our fathers, the one who received the living oracles to give to us, 39 whom our fathers would not obey, but rejected. And in their hearts they turned back to Egypt, 40 saying to Aaron, ‘Make us gods to go before us; as for this Moses who brought us out of the land of Egypt, we do not know what has become of him.’ 41 And they made a calf in those days, offered sacrifices to the idol, and rejoiced in the works of their own hands.” Acts 7:38-41

What will we do in our times of distress?
How will we deal with the unseen Lord?
When our lives devolve into a horrendous mess
Will we hold fast to the promises in His word? 

Or will we turn to another god, which is no god at all?
Will we forget what Christ has already done for us?
Through His cross, He has reversed our fall
This came through the blood of our Lord Jesus

The unseen Lord is a hard concept to follow, it’s true
But this is what He would ask of us; faith to display
By remembering what He has done in the past, for me and for you
We can have strength to continue in Jesus, day by day

And so let us never forget His gift, His holy word
Which reminds us of the faithfulness of our Lord

II. A Stiff-necked People (verses 5-10)

So when Aaron saw it, he built an altar before it.

With the handiwork of the workman accomplished, Aaron now provides full assent for the continued path of apostasy by building an altar before the Lord. After the giving of the Ten Commandments, the people asked Moses for the Lord to not speak to them anymore. After that, Moses ascended the mountain to receive the Book of the Covenant. The very first thing mandated at that time was the law of the of the Earthen Altar. This is what that passage says –

“Then the Lord said to Moses, “Thus you shall say to the children of Israel: ‘You have seen that I have talked with you from heaven. 23 You shall not make anything to be with Me—gods of silver or gods of gold you shall not make for yourselves. 24 An altar of earth you shall make for Me, and you shall sacrifice on it your burnt offerings and your peace offerings, your sheep and your oxen. In every place where I record My name I will come to you, and I will bless you. 25 And if you make Me an altar of stone, you shall not build it of hewn stone; for if you use your tool on it, you have profaned it. 26 Nor shall you go up by steps to My altar, that your nakedness may not be exposed on it.” Exodus 20:22-26

In direct violation of the law of the altar, Aaron approved the work of man’s hands and built an altar to the abomination. And in addition to that, in further disobedience to that law he next makes a proclamation

5 (con’t) And Aaron made a proclamation and said, “Tomorrow is a feast to the Lord.”

Not only did he approve of an image formed by man’s hands, and not only did he build an altar to it, but he ascribed to it the character of Yehovah by claiming a feast to Him. The self-existent One who proclaimed to Moses, and through him to the people of Israel, I AM THAT I AM, had been reduced to an image of wood and gold.

And that image was merely an image of something else which had been created by God, having been formed by Him as He desired. Now a mere image of His handiwork, that of a brute beast, had been exalted by Aaron as a representation of His infinite being.

The disgrace of what he has done is literally incomprehensible, and yet it is something that almost every human has done countless times in his own life. We form a god in our image. Whether it is through physical idols, or active disobedience to His word, we form our own god, suitable to our own liking.

Whether we decide that God is wrong in forbidding abortions, or whether we ignore His word concerning the order of the family unit, or whether we refuse to acknowledge that Christ is Lord – to the glory of God the Father, we recreate a god in our image and for our glory. The difference between Aaron and us is that Aaron’s deed happens to be recorded for all of us to read. The evil we have done may be out of sight, but it is recorded by God and it will be brought to light.

Then they rose early on the next day,

The idea we get here is that the people were too excited to sleep. The tedium of the previous five plus weeks had become too much for them. The thought of a feast day was as exciting to them as the thought of a coming wedding day. No sooner had the sun risen, then they went forward for their day of feasting.

6 (con’t) offered burnt offerings, and brought peace offerings;

The one offering that they needed the most, the sin offering, is noticeably missing from this verse. Instead, they made burnt offerings to appease their false god, and they brought peace offerings as a sign of fellowship and intimacy with him, but they were blinded to their sin and never considered such an offering.

6 (con’t) and the people sat down to eat and drink, and rose up to play.

Along with the sacrifices came feasting and drinking. As with most of such things when conducted in an unholy manner, it led to something worse. The words v’yaqumu letsakheq, “and rose up to play,” probably include fornication, adultery, and the like. It is the same word which was used concerning the accusations against Joseph by Potiphar’s wife in Genesis 39:14.

Paul cites this verse in 1 Corinthians 10 along with a list of other things which brought about the wrath of God upon the people of Israel. After citing them, he then followed up with these words of warning, assurance, and relief –

“Therefore let him who thinks he stands take heed lest he fall. 13 No temptation has overtaken you except such as is common to man; but God is faithful, who will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you are able, but with the temptation will also make the way of escape, that you may be able to bear it.” 1 Corinthians 10:12, 13

The lessons of the past have been given to us as examples for us to learn by. God is not contained in a box, and He is not represented by an animal or a man, except in the person of Jesus Christ who alone is the image of the invisible God.

As servants of the Lord, we are to refrain from idolatry, and we are to refrain from sexual immorality, both of which are ever more prevalent in society, and both of which are therefore all the more easy to fall into.

And the Lord said to Moses, “Go, get down!

The Lord uses the same term now that He did in Exodus 19:24, lek red – “Go, get down.” It is a highly emphatic expression implying an emergency, and expecting urgency. Moses didn’t understand the urgency in Exodus 19. In this chapter, he isn’t even aware of it. It is such a forceful expression, that it even affects him…

7 (con’t) For your people whom you brought out of the land of Egypt have corrupted themselves.

The term ammekha, or “your people,” carries one of two possibilities. The first is that the Lord is telling Moses that the people have sinned and they require a mediator to intercede for them. The second is that the Lord has disavowed them as His people. The covenant which united them is broken and they are no longer His.

What appears from the coming verses and chapters is a mixture of both. The Lord has distanced Himself from the people, but he understands that the tie of Moses’ blood relationship is permanent. As we will see, He will offer a new beginning through Moses, promising to make him a great nation, but because of Moses’ faithfulness to his people, in Chapter 34 the Lord will continue the covenant between Himself and Israel.

The greatness of Moses the man is seen in both how the Lord deals with him, and how he deals with his people. No matter what though, at the present time, the people have broken the covenant and the Lord is rightfully offended at their actions. Concerning what they have done in relation to modern idolatry, Adam Clarke provides wise words of counsel –

“This is one pretense that the Roman Catholics have for the idolatry in their image worship. Their high priest, the pope, collects the ornaments of the people, and makes an image, a crucifix, a madonna, etc. The people worship it; but the pope says it is only to keep God in remembrance. But of the whole God says, Thy people have corrupted themselves; and thus as they continue in their idolatry, they have forfeited the blessings of the Lord’s covenant. They are not God’s people, they are the pope’s people, and he is called “our holy father the pope.” Adam Clarke

They have turned aside quickly out of the way which I commanded them.

The words here show that whether the people thought Moses was gone a long time or not, the Lord saw it as a very short span. They turned away from Him and they were in a hurry to do so. Because of this, the guilt of their actions was all the more visible and intense. He had commanded, telling them the proper way in which to live before Him; and no sooner had He done so, than they had turned aside to the false path. As Arthur Pink describes this –

“Man must have an object, and when he turns from the true God, he at once craves a false one.” Arthur Pink

8 (con’t) They have made themselves a molded calf, and worshiped it and sacrificed to it, and said, ‘This is your god, O Israel, that brought you out of the land of Egypt!’”

His words here confirm the analysis of Adam Clarke concerning the idolatry of the RCC. The Lord says that not only had they made a molded calf, but they had worshipped and scarified to it. The Lord deems such actions as worship not of Him, but of the object itself, regardless of what the verbal expression of the people claim.

And the Lord said to Moses, “I have seen this people, and indeed it is a stiff-necked people!

The Lord was fully aware of the people before He ever created them. Certainly for this reason, as much as any other, He chose them. This might seem contradictory, but it is not. When making an example of something or someone, you choose that which fits the type the most perfectly.

The Lord chose Israel knowing the hardness of their hearts and their rebellious nature so that they could be an example to all people, carefully recorded in His word. And the metaphor He uses to describe them now is one which will be used numerous times of them in Scripture, and countless more throughout history. He says they are “a stiff-necked people.”

The word is normally explained as being obstinate, but it is more than that. It signifies a perverse people who want to behave in a way which is both unacceptable and unreasonable, even in spite of the consequences they will face.

It is a metaphor which finds its source in an animal which will not submit itself to yoke or bridle. He stiffens himself against the pull of the rein, even if it hurts. Thus Israel is being described as the very animal they have shaped and worshipped, a twirling calf. It is as if in history we are viewing a rodeo and Israel is the twirling obstinate animal.

They failed to submit to the yoke of God’s law, right in the sight of the burning mountain and just after a breakfast of manna provided by the Lord which formed on the ground upon which they now danced. This term for them will be used again and again to remind them of their infancy in the wilderness where they bowed their hearts away from God and turned their necks, rather than their faces, to Him.

In their defiance, the Lord now displays His anger at them. The dread and horror which was on display at Sinai in the giving of the Ten Commandments can now be expected to be released on them for violating those very same laws. It is a pattern which will be seen time and again in their history. The first is promised, and it is promised right now

10 Now therefore, let Me alone, that My wrath may burn hot against them and I may consume them.

The Lord now states to Moses the words v’atah hanikhah li – “And you let alone Me.” This appears to be a command, but it is not. It is the beginning of another test. Aaron was tested and he failed. Now a new test is being introduced. This becomes clear with the next words, v’yikhar api bahem v’akalem, “…and my wrath will burn hot against them and I will consume them.”

His burning wrath and His promised destruction is merely an exercise in revealing the character of Moses. This is what occurred with Jacob when the Lord wrestled with him in Genesis 32:24-28 –

“Then Jacob was left alone; and a Man wrestled with him until the breaking of day. 25 Now when He saw that He did not prevail against him, He touched the socket of his hip; and the socket of Jacob’s hip was out of joint as He wrestled with him. 26 And He said, ‘Let Me go, for the day breaks.’
But he said, ‘I will not let You go unless You bless me!’
27 So He said to him, ‘What is your name?’
He said, ‘Jacob.’
28 And He said, ‘Your name shall no longer be called Jacob, but Israel; for you have struggled with God and with men, and have prevailed.’”

The Lord tested Jacob, not for His own learning, but for Jacob’s. Now we see the same thing occurring again. The Lord has told Moses to leave Him alone, not “that” or “so” his anger may burn against the people, but “and” His anger will burn against them. If Moses agrees, the action will occur. And the test is made greater with our final words of the day…

*10 (fin) And I will make of you a great nation.”

v’e-e-se owtkha l’gow gadol – It is almost an exact repeat of the words spoken to Abraham over 430 years earlier. “And I will make you a great nation.” The mettle of the man is being tested. The love of his people, the faithfulness to his duties, and the desire for recognition are all being established.

As noted earlier, the number forty speaks of a time of evident probation. Aaron failed, the people failed, but Moses’ character is yet to be revealed. He has gone forty days and forty nights without food or water. Will he remain steadfast in His love for his people, his faithfulness to God, and his ability to withstand temptation?

He is being used as a picture of Christ who endured the same testing almost 1500 years later. Next week we will pick up with the account of this memorable incident which we can turn to in order to learn valuable insights into how we ourselves should be willing to act when faced with our own temptations and human limitations.

We, like Israel, like Aaron, and like Moses, have been brought up out of Egypt, the land of sin. The Lord has promised to take us back to the land we originally came from; the Land of Promise. In the meantime, we are to live by faith and not by sight.

We cannot replace our affections and devotions to the Lord with inanimate objects like statues of Mary, or false gods of gold and silver. We cannot trust in money or IRAs to keep us secure as we go. We cannot make sex, work, or wealth our god. Instead, we are being asked to trust the Lord and to pursue Him alone.

I met some nice people as I travelled the US in 2010 who fell into a bad patch. It involved the courts and confinement for the husband, and real distress for the wife and children. They become exceedingly pious and seemed to hold fast to the Lord through what happened, but not long after his confinement ended, he went back to his profession and the money started coming in.

She became a body builder. They stopped posting about the Lord and instead they make posts about the empire they are building. It is an empire built on sand, I assure you. Any such god that we put our trust in will fail us. The money will fade, the looks will disappear, the bodies will tire, and only emptiness will be left. What a sad price to pay for the temporary pleasures of this life.

Let us put away our golden calves and fix our eyes upon the high mountain where the Lord dwells. Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the Author and Finisher of our faith. Let us be resolute in our stand upon God’s sacred word, and let us never be willing to forsake our love and devotion to our most honored Lord.

If you have never called out to Him to be your Savior, please do it today…

Closing Verse: “They made a calf in Horeb,
And worshiped the molded image.
20 Thus they changed their glory
Into the image of an ox that eats grass.
21 They forgot God their Savior,
Who had done great things in Egypt,
22 Wondrous works in the land of Ham,
Awesome things by the Red Sea.” Psalm 106:19-22

Next Week: Exodus 31:11-24 It’s always exciting to see what the Bible shows us… (The Golden Calf – The Testing of Moses) (90th Exodus Sermon)

The Lord has you exactly where He wants you. He has a good plan and purpose for you. Even if a deep ocean lies ahead of You, He can part the waters and lead you through it on dry ground. So follow Him and trust Him and He will do marvelous things for you and through you.

The Golden Calf

Now when the people saw
That Moses delayed instead
Coming down from the mountain
The people gathered together to Aaron, and to him said

“Come, make us gods that shall go before us
For as for this Moses, the man who brought us up, also
Out of the land of Egypt
What has become of him, we do not know

And Aaron said to them, “Break off the golden earrings
Which are in the ears of your wives, so let it be
Also your sons, and your daughters…
And bring them to me

So all the people broke off
The golden earrings which were in their ears
And brought them to Aaron
Of the Lord God, they showed no fears

And he received the gold from their hand
And he fashioned it with an engraving tool
And made a molded calf
Aaron truly acted like a fool

Then they said
“This is your god, O Israel
That brought you out of the land of Egypt
As you know very well

So when Aaron saw it
He built an altar before it, disobeying God’s word
And Aaron made a proclamation and said
“Tomorrow is a feast to the Lord

Then they rose early on the next day
Offered burnt offerings, and brought peace offerings
And the people sat down to eat and drink, and rose up to play

And the Lord said to Moses “Go, get down!
For your people whom you brought out
Of the land of Egypt have corrupted themselves
They have performed great wickedness, no doubt

They have turned aside quickly
Out of the way which I commanded them, as I did tell
They have made themselves a molded calf
And worshiped it and sacrificed to it as well

And said, ‘This is your god, O Israel
That brought you out of the land of Egypt
This to the people they did tell

And the Lord said to Moses, who was paying heed
“I have seen this people
And it is a stiff-necked people indeed

Now therefore, let Me alone
That My wrath may burn hot against them in my consternation
And I may consume them
And I will make of you a great nation

Lord God, we sure know how to strive against you
It is in our nature to stiffen our necks in this way
Grant us wisdom to do what is right to do
And to be pleasing in Your sight; this we pray

Help us to follow closely what is written in Your word
And be a light on our path, guiding each of us
Help us to be obedient to the things we’ve heard
Concerning what You have done through our Lord Jesus

Lead us to Your place of rest, in eternal glory
That which is promised in the gospel story

For this we pray, and to this help us to attend
And surely we shall praise you forever; days without end

Hallelujah and Amen…

Exodus 31:12-18 (The Law of the Sabbath)

Exodus 31:12-18
The Law of the Sabbath

We have already had several sermons on the Sabbath. It is a theme which one would think would simply dry up so that all we would be doing is repeating the same thing. However, today’s passage is completely different than those of the past, such as Ex 16:22-26, where the Sabbath was introduced into Scripture, or Exodus 20, which dealt with the Ten Commandments, including the Sabbath.

This passage today takes us in an entirely different direction, and yet it fully supports those, and all the other passages which deal with the Sabbath. It is a temporary institution which finds its true meaning in Christ. In Him, the picture made by the Sabbath is fulfilled, and thus the Sabbath requirement is ended. Along with the new information comes a marvelous chiasm which I discovered while doing the sermon.

I will lay it out for you now, and at times we will refer to it in the sermon. Chiasms give us hidden structures which reveal what God is thinking. They help us to properly analyze difficult passages and theological concepts and they reveal what their true meaning is. This one is no different –

2 Chiasm

As we read the sermon text, maybe you thought, “Why is the same thing being repeated again and again?” Now you know. The Lord is revealing truths about this most important weekly day which occurred in the lives of Israel of old.

Text Verse: “Today, if you will hear His voice,
Do not harden your hearts as in the rebellion,
In the day of trial in the wilderness,
Where your fathers tested Me, tried Me,
And saw My works forty years.
10 Therefore I was angry with that generation,
And said, ‘They always go astray in their heart,
And they have not known My ways.’
11 So I swore in My wrath,
‘They shall not enter My rest.’” Hebrews 3:7-11

Before we even start with the sermon, we need to be reminded that the Sabbath was a part of the Law of Moses. The Law of Moses is, according to the book of Hebrews, obsolete, annulled, and set aside. It is, according to Paul in Colossians, “nailed to the cross.” We are not Sabbatarians here. We don’t observe an annulled precept from an annulled law in order to be pleasing to God.

Instead, we trust in the work of Christ, and we rest in His finished work – plain and simple. Working deeds of the law in order to attempt to be right with God will lead to only one sad end, separation from God. It is a self-condemning act. This truth, and quite a few others, are poignantly highlighted in today’s verses. Let’s pay heed to what is revealed there… in His Superior word. And so let’s turn to that precious word once again and… May God speak to us through His word today and may His glorious name ever be praised.

I. A Sign Between Me and You (verses 12-14)

12 And the Lord spoke to Moses, saying,

v’yomer Yehovah el Moshe lemor – “And said the Lord to Moses saying…” These words introduce the second major section of this chapter. The first began in verse 1 with a very similar phrase. With just a single word of difference, this second section now opens. What is most notable about it, is that it will close out the Lord’s discourse concerning the instructions of the tabernacle and the priestly ordination which began in verse 25:1.

In all, these 6 chapters have comprised 22 individual sermons which have discovered hundreds, if not thousands, of pictures of Christ. There has been an amazing amount of information revealed in this 40-day trip up the mountain by Moses. Even 3500 years later, new insights continue to come out of these 6 chapters of 243 verses, such as our chiasm which finally came forth at this time.

13 “Speak also to the children of Israel, saying: ‘Surely My Sabbaths you shall keep,

This final section of the instructions to Moses seems to be completely out of place. Everything to this point concerning his time on the mountain has been in regard to the building of the tabernacle and its associated rites and services. Suddenly, the law of the Sabbath is reintroduced. As I said, it was already mentioned in chapter 16 where it was first introduced.

It was then next mentioned in the giving of the 10 Commandments, specifically it being the fourth of them. Those two incidents would seem to suffice concerning this particular observance, and yet, before closing out His highly detailed discourse, these six verses are given.

After them, will be one more verse concerning the tablets of the Ten Commandments and the chapter will close. Because of this seemingly unusual placement of these seemingly out of context verses, several reasons have been suggested for their inclusion now.

  • “The law of the Sabbath held a particularly prominent place” in the Ten Commandments, and so it is highlighted before they are given to Moses. (Kurtz)
  • “That the holy service in the tabernacle could not supersede the observance of the Sabbath, but derived from that observance its true value.” (Kalisch)
  • That the “penal edict was especially introduced as a caution in reference to the construction of the tabernacle, lest the people, in their zeal to carry on the work, should be tempted to break the divine law for the observance of the day.” (Barnes)
  • “Hitherto the Sabbath had been, in the main, a positive enactment intended to test obedience (Exodus 16:4); now it was elevated into a sacramental sign between God and His people (Exodus 31:13). Having become such a sign, it required to be guarded by a new sanction, and this was done by assigning the death-penalty to any infraction of the law of Sabbath observance (Exodus 31:14-15). (Ellicott)
  • None of the above (Charlie Garrett)

The first reason, that the Sabbath held an especially prominent place in the Ten Commandments, is wholly unjustified. Elevating the Sabbath above the other nine has led to both heresy and the establishment of aberrant cults. That is neither stated in, nor can it be inferred from, Scripture.

The second reason, that the service in the tabernacle could not supersede the observance of the Sabbath, would mean that the rites of the tabernacle would have to be suspended every Sabbath. And yet the directions for the service of the tabernacle mandate that they be conducted, without interruption, every day of the week. Even the ordination of Aaron and his sons was to continue on through Sabbath days.

The third reason, that of the people neglecting the Sabbath to work on the tabernacle, is just wrong. The Sabbath law has been given. For them to assume that they could work on the tabernacle in order to get it finished was not mentioned by the Lord during the instruction of these 6 chapters. In other words, the Sabbath requirement was named at the giving of the Ten Commandments. It was mandated and expected to be kept, just as all ten were.

The last view, that it was because it was elevated to a sacramental sign between God and the people is a correct precept, but that doesn’t explain the placement of it here along with the instructions for the tabernacle. It simply provides an explanation for the penalty of death for a violation of the Sabbath and goes no further.

The issue is, “Why has the Sabbath been placed here, at this time, after giving minute instructions for the building of the tabernacle, and just prior to the physical handing over of the Ten Commandments?” That is the relevant question.

The answer is that if you survive to the end of this sermon, you will be told the reason. In the meantime, you can chew on it as we go through the rest of the verses, and see if you can come to the correct answer.

As far as the use of the word Shabbat, or Sabbath, here, it is the first time that the term shabbatotay or “My Sabbaths” is found in Scripture. First, it shows the personal nature of the Sabbath in relation to the Lord. In observing the Sabbath, there is a direct connection to God’s rest which is recorded in Genesis 2 –

“Thus the heavens and the earth, and all the host of them, were finished. And on the seventh day God ended His work which He had done, and He rested on the seventh day from all His work which He had done. Then God blessed the seventh day and sanctified it, because in it He rested from all His work which God had created and made.” Genesis 2:1-3

Second, the word is in the plural, “Sabbaths,” because they were a regular occurrence, each week throughout the year. This is why Paul uses the same term when speaking of the “Sabbaths” in Colossians 2:16. They are many, and they are personal to the Lord. This “rest of God” is so important to Him that it will bear several unique connotations and requirements. The first is…

13 (cont’) for it is a sign between Me and you

The Sabbath is to be a sign between the Lord and His people. The word for “sign” is owth. It comes from the verb avah, which means “to sign, mark, [or] describe with a mark.” Thus this type of sign is something that points to something else.

It can point back to a memorial which represents a particular occurrence; it can point forward to something anticipated; and it can reflect something that exists which is only highlighted by the sign itself. In other words, a signature on an important document highlights the authority of the one signing the document.

The Sabbath then is merely a sign intended to highlight a reality which exists already, or which is to be anticipated at some point in the future. Further, this sign is not a temporary thing. Rather, it was intended to remain…

13 (con’t) throughout your generations,

This exact same phrase, l’dorotekem, or “throughout your generations,” has already been used nine times. Looking at those earlier instances will hopefully reveal a truth to you concerning the reason for the placement of this passage.

So far it has been used when speaking of the sign of circumcision which was given to Abraham in Genesis 17. It was used when speaking of the Passover in Exodus 12. It was used concerning the keeping of an omer of Manna in Exodus 16. It was used in the passage concerning the daily offerings at morning and between the evenings in Exodus 29.

It was used in connection with the burning of incense on the Altar of Incense at morning and between the evenings in Exodus 30. And finally, it was used concerning the use of the Holy Anointing Oil in Exodus 30.

Of these nine references to something being done “throughout your generations,” what is the common element? Well, let us ask ourselves, “Are we still required to be circumcised?” No! In fact, Paul says that if we do that in order to be justified by the law, then we are debtors to the whole law. It is a self-condemning act. Circumcision only pointed to the coming Christ.

Are we required to observe the Passover? No! “For indeed Christ, our Passover, was sacrificed for us” (1 Corinthians 5:7). Are we still holding on to a golden jar of Manna? No! Why? Because Christ has come! He said –

“Most assuredly, I say to you, he who believes in Me has everlasting life. 48 I am the bread of life. 49 Your fathers ate the manna in the wilderness, and are dead. 50 This is the bread which comes down from heaven, that one may eat of it and not die. 51 I am the living bread which came down from heaven. If anyone eats of this bread, he will live forever; and the bread that I shall give is My flesh, which I shall give for the life of the world.” John 6:47-51

What about the daily sacrifices? What about the offering of incense or the Anointing Oil? What is the common element? The common element is Christ. None of these previous things which were to be l’dorotekem, or “throughout your generations,” was permanent. They were given in anticipation of Christ.

13 (con’t) that you may know that I am the Lord who sanctifies you.

The Sabbath was a sign, to be observed throughout the generations of Israel, to point to something else. It was given as a sign for the people of Israel to know that it was Yehovah who sanctified them. Just as he blessed and sanctified the seventh day after His creative effort in Genesis, the people of Israel were to know that they were sanctified by that same God. In observing His rest, they were intimately connected to Him and sanctified by Him.

In the words of the Bible connected to the Sabbath, we find a most important truth. First, the Sabbath is given in Exodus 20:11 based on the God’s creative efforts. In Deuteronomy 5:15, the Sabbath is given based on God’s act of redemption. And in this verse, it is tied into God’s work of sanctification.

In other words, the work of all three members of the Trinity are tied up in the Sabbath. God the Creator, God the Redeemer, and God the Sanctifier. Matthew Poole notes –

“…the sabbath owns the Lord as our Creator, and as our Redeemer, and as our Sanctifier; and therefore it is no wonder God so severely enjoins the sanctification of the sabbath, and punisheth the neglect of it, it being a tacit renouncing or disowning of God the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost.”

14 You shall keep the Sabbath, therefore, for it is holy to you.

Of these words, Joseph Benson says –

“…it is designed for your benefit as well as for God’s honour; it shall be accounted holy by you.” Joseph Benson

It is the Lord who sanctifies Israel. The Sabbath is the property of God. For Israel it is the inheritance of God. Therefore, Israel was instructed to keep the Sabbath. The directions for the construction, services, and rites of the sanctuary were based on works. They were to work towards the Sabbath each week, and then rest in honor of the works which were performed, even though the priest’s works continued during Sabbath days.

14 (cont’t) Everyone who profanes it shall surely be put to death;

To profane the Sabbath means to defile it. That which would defile the Sabbath was defined in the Ten Commandments –

In it you shall do no work: you, nor your son, nor your daughter, nor your male servant, nor your female servant, nor your cattle, nor your stranger who is within your gates.” Exodus 20:10

Violating these, and any other prohibitions which will be given, would then be considered profaning the Sabbath. However, as we saw in a recent sermon, the priest’s continued to work on the Sabbath and yet they were held guiltless. They did not profane it.

14 (cont’t) for whoever does any work on it, that person shall be cut off from among his people.

A distinction is especially made between being put to death and being cut off from the people. A person could be cut off from the people without being put to death. The two are not synonymous. A person who offended in such a way as to put himself out of the covenant was considered an outlaw. He was to be cut off from his people. When the offense affected the nation as a whole, then the person was to be put to death.

When a person defiled the Sabbath, they actually caused more harm than may be realized. If nothing was done about his actions, it might spur others to jealousy who were not making the same money as the one who profited from the Sabbath. Further, it would then spur them on to profane the Sabbath as well, knowing that nothing would be done about their actions.

Eventually, the infection would spread, and the people in general would come to this same conclusion. What was a sign to the people would cease being a sign. They would no longer know that it was the Lord who sanctified them, they would no longer fear the Lord, and they would quickly turn from Him to profane worship. This will be noted later today in a passage from Nehemiah.

I am the Lord who sanctifies you
In Me you shall find your rest
What I look for is faith that is true
And in this, I shall put you to the test

I am the Lord, pay heed unto Me
For I will give you a Day of rest
If you will simply trust, you will see
That in My presence you will be eternally blessed

Come unto Me, you who are weary
And in My presence there will be peaceful rest
Come unto Me, leave your life so dreary
If the land of Paradise-restored is your hope-filled quest

II. A Sabbath of Rest, Holy to the Lord (verses 15-17)

15 Work shall be done for six days, but the seventh is the Sabbath of rest, holy to the Lord.

These words of verse 15 form the middle of the chiasm. The term Shabbat Shabbaton, or “rest of restfulness,” gives the idea of complete restfulness.  The Pulpit Commentary translates this as, “but in the seventh is complete rest.”

These words, Shabbat Shabbaton, are a particular term used only seven times in Scripture. It is applied to the Sabbath here and two other times – to the Day of Atonement twice in Leviticus, and to the Sabbatical year in Leviticus. Each of these is only a prefiguring shadow of the work of Christ. That the term is mentioned seven times shows us the spiritual perfection of Christ’s work.

The repetition of Shabbat in Shabbat Shabbaton, using an abstract form of the fixed noun, gives the idea of that which is superlative. Thus, the term “high Sabbath” is used of it in John’s gospel. There he says –

“Therefore, because it was the Preparation Day, that the bodies should not remain on the cross on the Sabbath (for that Sabbath was a high day), the Jews asked Pilate that their legs might be broken, and that they might be taken away.” John 19:31

It was a Sabbath, but it also occurred in conjunction with another feast day. Thus John highlighted the day. It truly was the Lord’s Sabbath as He was secreted away in a cave to rest after His great time of work culminating in what we know as the Passion.

In this, it needs to be noted that the life of Israel was working towards a Sabbath. As the verse says, “Work shall be done for six days, but the seventh is the Sabbath of rest.” Israel worked and then rested. Just as God worked, and then rested – six followed by one, Israel was to work and then rest – six followed by one.

15 (cont’t) Whoever does any work on the Sabbath day, he shall surely be put to death.

With these words, the chiasm begins its backward descent from the high point of the previous words. This clause forms two separate parts of that chiasm. The first is that of working on the Sabbath; the second is that of being put to death.

The sequence of thought is 1) The infraction – working on the Sabbath; 2) The penalty – mowt yumat, “dying he shall die.” Think about the structure of the chiasm. Line d is an explanatory sentence. Line e is the penalty for the infraction. Line f is what the infraction is.

The first half of the chiasm explains the requirement. It then gives the naming of the punishment first and then the reason for the punishment. The second half of the chiasm does the opposite. It gives the reason for the punishment, then the naming of the punishment, and then the explanatory basis for the sequence.

The middle is the anchor of the two halves.

What is the Lord showing us? If it is about Christ, as we know it is, then there is a reason for the chiastic structure. Keep thinking. The sermon is half over. Until we finish, let’s continue analyzing… The severity of the punishment which is mandated brings a few thoughts to mind. The first is, “Was this punishment ever meted out?”

The answer is that, “Yes, it was.” It is common for a precept to be laid out in the Bible and then an example of punishment for violation to be noted. For the Sabbath, the punishment is recorded in Numbers 14 –

“Now while the children of Israel were in the wilderness, they found a man gathering sticks on the Sabbath day. 33 And those who found him gathering sticks brought him to Moses and Aaron, and to all the congregation. 34 They put him under guard, because it had not been explained what should be done to him.

35 Then the Lord said to Moses, ‘The man must surely be put to death; all the congregation shall stone him with stones outside the camp.” 36 So, as the Lord commanded Moses, all the congregation brought him outside the camp and stoned him with stones, and he died.’” Numbers 14:32-36

The second question is, “Are all violations of this standard which are noted in Scripture handled with the same punishment?” The answer is, “No.” In Nehemiah 13:15, we read –

“In those days I saw people in Judah treading wine presses on the Sabbath, and bringing in sheaves, and loading donkeys with wine, grapes, figs, and all kinds of burdens, which they brought into Jerusalem on the Sabbath day. And I warned them about the day on which they were selling provisions.”

The third question is, “Are we today required to observe the Sabbath?” If so, what are we doing in church on Sunday instead of Saturday? That will be answered later.

The fourth question is, “For those who claim that the Sabbath is still in effect, meaning the Jews and aberrant cults like the Seventh Day Adventists and various messianic groups, why are they mandating the word of the Lord concerning the Sabbath, but not upholding the word of the Lord by putting their Sabbath breakers to death?” Is their disobedience in this any less damaging than failing to adhere to the requirement of the Sabbath itself?

16 Therefore the children of Israel shall keep the Sabbath, to observe the Sabbath

These words correspond to line d on the chiasm. The word “therefore” simply says “and” in the Hebrew. The sentence, although explanatory, is more a reaffirmation of the importance of the requirement than being an overall explanation of what has thus far been said.

Israel is again commanded to keep the Sabbath and to observe the Sabbath. The repetition is a stress in itself. The honoring of the Sabbath was to be as important to them as was life in the day itself. We cherish Today because it is the day we are in. It is the moment in which we exist. The observance of the Sabbath was to be just as important and cherished as that state of existence.

To understand this, I can give the example of what Jim and I do on Saturday. Every Saturday, the two of us, along with Tom Alley, do mission work in the projects. At times, people come along with us. It is not their Saturday except for the Saturday that they come. However, for Tom, Jim, and me – it is our Saturday. To not be there is the exception for us. For any others, to be there is the exception for them. Israel’s Saturday was to be their Sabbath, without exception. And it was to be…

16 (con’t) throughout their generations as a perpetual covenant.

These words correspond to line c on the chiasm. Again, the idea of the Sabbath was to continue on for the generations to come. However, as we saw earlier, the idea of something continuing throughout the generations does not mean eternally. There is a point where the practice of these generations was to end.

As long as it was in force, it was however, to be a berith olam, or a covenant perpetual. As long as the generations to whom this requirement was assigned were in existence, the requirement stood. The covenant was made at Sinai and it remained in effect until it was superseded by the New Covenant.

The word olam, or perpetual, gives the idea of “to the vanishing point.” Whatever that point was, it was to continue to it. The same term berith olam, or covenant perpetual, was given to Abraham concerning circumcision, something no longer required.

17 It is a sign between Me and the children of Israel forever;

These words correspond to line b on the chiasm. We continue to move away from the middle anchor verse, but the precept remains the same. The rest of the Sabbath is to be an owth, a sign. A sign, as I said, points to something else. It is not the thing itself, but stands as representative of the thing. The rest was to be this sign and it was to be so until the vanishing point.

17 (cont’t) for in six days the Lord made the heavens and the earth,

This is not included in the chiasm, but it explains the final line. In order for there to be rest, there was first work. As God worked six days in creating, Israel was to work six days with the creation. The six days were intended to lead to the anticipated seventh…

17 (con’t) and on the seventh day He rested and was refreshed.’”

On the seventh day, the Lord rested. Without a doubt, the Lord, meaning Yehovah, has been seen countless times already to be Jesus. He is the incarnate Word of God. He is the Lord in the flesh. In His creative efforts, He made the heavens and the earth, and then He rested. And along with that, it says He “was refreshed.”

The word is naphash. Literally, “He took breath.” This is the only time the word is used in this remarkable way in the Bible as being ascribed to the Lord. After the immense work of creation, the Lord took time to catch His breath and to admire the handiwork which He had so marvelously brought into existence.

The connection between this line of the chiasm and the first line is that it is the Sabbath which the Lord claims as His, and it is the seventh day on which He took His rest. The two are intimately and intricately tied together.

A time of rest for the weary soul
A time to stop and contemplate Jesus
Our Lord, Our God – our Aim, our Goal
The longing desire for each of us

To rest in Him, sweet and sublime
To be still in His presence, safe and secure
For the ages of ages; for all time
Blessed assurance – holy and pure

Oh! To know Christ and to seek Him more
To ponder His majesty as together we rest
Come to Him all you weak, weary, and poor
Find peace and joy, in His comfort be blessed

III. The Tablets of the Testimony (verse 18)

18 And when He had made an end of speaking with him on Mount Sinai, He gave Moses two tablets of the Testimony,

Everything that has been presented since Exodus 25:1 has been for the reception of these two tablets. After the call for the people to provide materials, the very first thing that was described to Moses was the construction of the Ark of the Testimony and then the Mercy seat. In verse 25:16, after the details for the construction of the Ark, it said, “And you shall put into the ark the Testimony which I will give you.”

Then again in verse 25:21, after the details were given for the Mercy Seat, the Lord said, “You shall put the mercy seat on top of the ark, and in the ark you shall put the Testimony that I will give you.” Every single thing after that was described for the purpose of building a tabernacle and a sanctuary for these stone tablets and then for the conduct of the services and rites associated with that sanctuary. With that speaking for instruction now complete, it says that the tablets were then given to Moses. These tablets were…

18 (con’t) tablets of stone,

lukhot eben, “tablets of stone.” The fact that they are stone is to give the idea of permanence. What is written on them is fixed and is unchanging. That there were two tablets shows something more though. Two in the Bible is the number of difference. In the number, there is a contrast, and yet there is a confirmation.

The precepts of the Ten Commandments fall under two distinct categories. The first five follow a basic pattern of filial obedience, as children to their parents. The first four were directed to God, but in them and in keeping them, they were as children honoring their heavenly Father. The fifth was specifically in honoring of one’s parents. The second set of five deal with interpersonal relationships between man and his fellow man. The contents contrast, and yet they confirm God’s expectations for man.

These two tablets, which are made of stone and which are to be secreted away in the Ark also have another defining characteristic. These were…

*18 (fin) written with the finger of God.

The tablets themselves were made by God, and the writing upon them, which was set in stone, was written by God. They are the law of God which is set and unchanging. Once written, they are set, fixed, and complete. There were 172 words which detailed God’s expectations for man to live in His presence.

However, that they were stone also showed that they could be broken. The words would still be there, but they would be violated if broken. And in fact, Moses will break the first set. And so a second set will need to be made. However, the second set will be made by Moses. This is recorded in Exodus 34:1 –

“Cut two tablets of stone like the first ones, and I will write on these tablets the words that were on the first tablets which you broke.”

Later, in the same chapter, the Lord writes on those new tablets –

“So he was there with the Lord forty days and forty nights; he neither ate bread nor drank water. And He wrote on the tablets the words of the covenant, the Ten Commandments.” Exodus 34:28

In this we are given a picture of our spiritual state. The laws are permanent, but are capable of being broken. And in fact, God knew that man would break them. God created Adam, pictured by the first set of tablets, and Adam broke God’s law.

Moses made the second set, picturing Christ, coming from the stream of humanity, and yet He never broke God’s law. In both, the law was written by God, but only in Christ does the law remain unbroken. Adam Clarke, at least partially picked up on this when he wrote concerning the giving of these tablets to Moses –

“It is evident therefore that this writing was properly and literally the writing of God himself. God wrote now on tables of stone what he had originally written on the heart of man, and in mercy he placed that before his eyes which by sin had been obliterated from his soul; and by this he shows us what, by the Spirit of Christ, must be rewritten in the mind.” Adam Clarke

The giving of this law, at the end of the directions for the sanctuary, is the fulfillment of what the sanctuary anticipated. All of the details looked forward to Christ, but without the law which Christ fulfilled, there would remain an eternal disconnect between God and man. Only when this law was placed in the Ark and covered by the Mercy Seat, could there be a restoration of that fellowship which was lost in Adam.

In the pages of the Bible, we are hardly there yet, but in type, shadow, and picture, we are getting there with each new passage which speaks of Christ, and which is leading us to Him. And so this passage and the chapter close out with these final words. But we are still missing something. We have not yet correctly answered the question which has eluded those great scholars we cited earlier.

Why was the seemingly disconnected subject of the Sabbath placed here, in the overall theme of the preparation for the Sanctuary? John Lange came very close to answering the enigma when he said –

“It should also be observed that in 35:1 sqq. the command respecting the Sabbath recurs again, and this time precedes the order concerning the erection of the tabernacle. The Sabbath belonged as essentially to the tabernacle and the temple as the Christian Sunday to Christian worship.—A sign between me and you.” John Lange

Just after receiving the details of the sanctuary from the Lord, the subject of the Sabbath is brought up. And then, just prior to Moses conveying the details of the sanctuary which he received, he will say this to the people –

“These are the words which the Lord has commanded you to do: Work shall be done for six days, but the seventh day shall be a holy day for you, a Sabbath of rest to the Lord. Whoever does any work on it shall be put to death. You shall kindle no fire throughout your dwellings on the Sabbath day.” Exodus 35:1-3

The Sabbath is being intricately and intimately tied into the sanctuary. The sanctuary is where the Lord is to reside. It signifies that He is dwelling among the people. The greatest punishment of all for Israel was exile from the presence of the Lord. But this is exactly what was promised for disobedience. In that promise the Lord states the following in Leviticus 26:33-35 –

“I will scatter you among the nations and draw out a sword after you;
your land shall be desolate and your cities waste.
34 Then the land shall enjoy its sabbaths as long as it lies desolate and you are in your enemies’ land;
then the land shall rest and enjoy its sabbaths.
35 As long as it lies desolate it shall rest—
for the time it did not rest on your sabbaths when you dwelt in it.”

The reason for the Sabbath’s inclusion here is because it, like every other detail which has been given in the past six chapters, ultimately points to Christ – His Person and His work, for us. The chiasm itself hints at this.

In the Old Covenant, man worked and then rested. In the New Covenant, man rests and then works. A picture is made of the process of salvation in the two dispensations. Israel worked six days and then rested on the Sabbath. It was an anticipation of the time of rest which lay ahead when all things would be restored.

With Christ’s coming we rest on the first day of the week in honor of His finished work, and then we conduct our work week. This is why in the first half of the chiasm, line e gives the penalty – death, and then line f gives the reason for the penalty – working on the Sabbath.

Whereas in the second half of the chiasm, the order is reversed. First is noted the reason for the penalty – working, and then is given the penalty – death. Our rest is in Christ and what He has done. We have died to the law; we now live in Christ.

If we work in an attempt to please God, we are cut off from God. But if we accept Christ’s work, we are saved by grace and through faith. Works are excluded. They can only condemn, not save. The book of Hebrews explains the rest of God in great detail. In Chapter 4 we read these words –

Therefore, since a promise remains of entering His rest, let us fear lest any of you seem to have come short of it. For indeed the gospel was preached to us as well as to them; but the word which they heard did not profit them, not being mixed with faith in those who heard it. For we who have believed do enter that rest, as He has said:
“So I swore in My wrath,
‘They shall not enter My rest,’”
although the works were finished from the foundation of the world. For He has spoken in a certain place of the seventh day in this way: “And God rested on the seventh day from all His works”; and again in this place: “They shall not enter My rest.” Hebrews 4:1-5

Speaking of those who had been disobedient, the word says that “They shall not enter My rest.” But for those who have believed, verse 3 says, “For we who have believed do enter that rest.” Everything about the sanctuary centers on Jesus.

All of it points to our return to Eden and into God’s rest which is from the foundation of the world. Now, by faith in Christ we do enter that rest. Like the sanctuary itself, the Sabbath is obsolete because Christ has come. This then explains why the Sabbath is included in these sanctuary instructions. It is a part of the rites of the law; the law is fulfilled; it is set aside.

Because of this, works are excluded. And for those Jews who have missed the grace train, to this day they are still working, having failed to trust in Christ. They exist in this new dispensation, that of grace, and thus are cut off from His provision.

However, the Bible tells us of their coming day of restoration. They will finally, after 2000 years, call on Him as a nation. They will be brought into the covenant, and they will enter their time of rest. This is what we call “the millennium.” In this, we see that the Sabbath is a sign between the Lord and Israel.

The great Sabbath is coming in the final dispensation of time as we know it. The world has been at war and in strife for six thousand years, but when the nation of Israel calls out for their Messiah, He will return to them. The Sabbath is a sign between the Lord and Israel because it pictures something else. It pictures that truly wondrous time on earth when wars will cease, where –

“The wolf also shall dwell with the lamb,
The leopard shall lie down with the young goat,
The calf and the young lion and the fatling together;
And a little child shall lead them.
The cow and the bear shall graze;
Their young ones shall lie down together;
And the lion shall eat straw like the ox.
The nursing child shall play by the cobra’s hole,
And the weaned child shall put his hand in the viper’s den.
They shall not hurt nor destroy in all My holy mountain,
For the earth shall be full of the knowledge of the Lord
As the waters cover the sea.” Isaiah 11:6-9

This then explains the rare term of verse 18, naphash. Literally, “He took breath.” The Lord will sit on His throne in Jerusalem and will take His breath. His work will be fully complete in the restoration of all things for that marvelous millennial period.

This, however, also explains why the priests were held guiltless, even when working on the Sabbath. It pictures Christ’s continued role, at all times, as our great High Priest. The priests of Old, only pointed to the true Priest – Christ. Insightfully, Matthew Poole shows that the Sabbath of Israel was a fivefold sign to Israel –

  1. Commemorative, of God’s creation of and dominion over them and all other things.
    2. Indicative, showing that they were made to be holy, and that their sanctification can be had from none but from God.
    3. Distinctive, whereby they owned themselves to be the Lord’s peculiar people.
    4. Prefigurative, of that rest which Christ should purchase for them.
    5. Confirmative, both assuring them of God’s good will to them, and that as he blessed the sabbath for their sakes, so he would bless them in the holy use of it with temporal, spiritual, and everlasting blessings. Matthew Poole (amended)

He noted that it was only prefigurative of Christ and the rest that He would purchase for them. We are still awaiting the day when they will see this, but maybe one of you has yet to receive it as well. He has already done the work. All we need to do is simply reach out by faith and grab it.

If you are here and feel that you have to somehow merit God’s favor by some work or another, the Bible shows that you have missed the mark. God has done the work in Christ. Trust in that and be found pleasing to God by simple belief in His mighty deeds, accomplished by Christ and just for you…

Closing Verse: So let no one judge you in food or in drink, or regarding a festival or a new moon or sabbaths, 17 which are a shadow of things to come, but the substance is of Christ. Colossians 2:16, 17

Next Week: Exodus 32:1-10 Worshipping anything but the Lord will leave you baron… (The Golden Calf – The Testing of Aaron) (89th Exodus sermon)

The Lord has you exactly where He wants you. He has a good plan and purpose for you. Even if a deep ocean lies ahead of You, He can part the waters and lead you through it on dry ground. So follow Him and trust Him and He will do marvelous things for you and through you.

The Law of the Sabbath

And the Lord spoke to Moses, saying
These are the words He was relaying

Speak also to the children of Israel, saying:
Surely My Sabbaths you shall keep, so shall it be
For it is a sign between Me and you
Throughout your generations, as commanded by Me

That you may know that I am the Lord
Who sanctifies you, and so pay heed to My word

You shall keep the Sabbath, therefore
For it is holy to you
Everyone who profanes it shall surely be put to death
This is what you are to do

For whoever does any work on it
That person shall be cut off from among his people
So to you I submit

Work shall be done for six days
But the seventh is the Sabbath of rest, holy to the Lord
Whoever does any work on the Sabbath day
He shall surely be put to death, according to My word

Therefore the children of Israel
Shall keep the Sabbath, so shall they do
To observe the Sabbath throughout their generations
As a perpetual covenant; a covenant between Me and you

It is a sign between Me
And the children of Israel forever; thus we are enmeshed
For in six days the Lord made the heavens and the earth
And on the seventh day He rested and was refreshed

And when He had made an end
Of speaking with him on Mount Sinai, no more could Moses linger
He gave Moses two tablets of the Testimony
Tablets of stone, written with God’s finger

O God, again we come to Your word
To search it out for what You would of us expect
And in so searching we find our precious Lord
And in Him, only grace and mercy can we detect

For those who have trusted in Jesus
We have the surest hope of all
Magnificent, wondrous things He has done for us
Because upon His precious name, we did call

How can such love be, O God?
Surely it is exceeds heaven’s highest height
And so for sending Jesus we joyously applaud
Because through Him, all things are new –
Once again all things are right

Hallelujah and Amen…